Invisible Man Themes

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Identity

In Invisible Man, an unnamed protagonist sets out on a journey of self-discovery that takes him

from the rural south to Harlem. Learning who he is means realizing that he is invisible to the white world, but by the end of his journey the hero has the moral fiber to live with such contradictions. The overwhelming theme of the novel is that of identity. While the novel has to do with questions of race and prejudice, most critics agree that these ideas are subsumed under the broader questions of who we think we are, and the relationship between identity and personal responsibility. The invisible man's moment of self-recognition occurs almost simultaneously with his realization that the white world does not see him, but Ellison seems to be saying, "Well, don't worry about that." Until the invisible man can see himself, he can only be passive, "outside of history...

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This section contains 1,336 words
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Invisible Man from Novels for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.