Ralph Waldo Ellison’s Invisible Man is a fictional novel that has several allusions. Invisible man, which was originally published in nineteen forty-five, talks about an unnamed African American man’s life experiences. In the novel, Invisible Man uses many allusion s to explain his experiences and feelings towards them. Invisible Man is full of symbolism. Allusions are a way for the author to put his meaning into words without being direct or obvious about it. An example of this would be when Invisible man says, “I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me” (Ellison par 2).
This shows that Invisible Mans invisibility can have certain effects on him and how he feels at times. Invisible Man also makes use of symbolism throughout the novel. Invisible Man’s grandfather introduced Invisible man to an invisible man named Battle . Battle was Invisible Man’s only father figure. Invisible man used Battle as a role model and wanted to be just like him. Invisible man describes Battle as being “a gray, indistinct figure” (6). This symbolizes invisibility because he is not clear or confident about himself.
Invisible man also uses his invisibility in relationships with women by saying, “I’m invisible, understand! And I intend to stay that way” (4). Invisible Man continues to use allusion by quoting people from history such as Henry Thoreau , who says, “The mass of men lead lives of desperation” (57). Invisible Man even goes as far to quote Shakespeare in the book when Invisible man is talking about fighting oppression . Invisible Man says, “To be or not to be; that is the question” (Ellison 126). Invisible man uses these quotes to help him explain his situation and support his words.
Another allusion Invisible Man makes in the novel is when he talks about Crispus Attucks , who was an African American slave who died in the Boston Massacre . The massacre was considered one of the events that led up to the American Revolution . Invisible Man explains this event by saying, “I am become death, destroyer of worlds” (101). This quote is actually a line from J. Robert Oppenheimer , which he said after the first atomic bomb test in New Mexico. Invisible man used this allusion to help his readers understand that Invisible Man was involved in a big war, not an American Revolution.
Invisible man felt that he was responsible for the loss of many lives . Invisible Man also uses allusions when Invisible man is starting his new life at college. Invisible man describes Ellison’s work as “tersely realistic” (109). Invisible Man did not know how to express himself yet and during this period, because Invisible Man didn’t really have friends to talk to . He was alone throughout the whole experience . This quote shows how Invisible Man has trouble with vocabulary which can lead to difficulty expressing himself through words other than using allusions.
Allusion is Invisible Man’s only way to get his feelings and ideas across . Invisible man also used allusions when he talks about war. Invisible Man says, “I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe” (151). This quote compares the soldiers of World War II with the ghosts in The Fall of the House of Usher , which was written by Poe . Invisible man actually does feel like a ghost and he feels that he has no place in this world and tries to figure out where he belongs throughout the whole novel. Invisible man uses allusion when Invisible Man talks about being black in America.
Invisible Man says, “Insofar as I had been identified with my body, insofar as I was ‘a well-dressed Negro,’ I was ‘safe’” (41). Invisible Man uses this quote to help the reader understand that Invisible man was constantly being thought of as a black man and Invisible Man did not identify with his own color . Invisible man didn’t want to be associated with what other people saw him as because Invisible Man had his own opinions. The Invisible Man also used an allusion when he talked about invisibility. Invisible Man says, “I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me” (Ellison par 2).
This shows how Invisible Mans invisibility can have certain effects on him and how he feels at times. Invisible Mans grandfather introduced him to an invisible man named Battle . Battle was Invisible Mans grandfather’s friend who was a slave. Invisible Man used this as an allusion because Invisible Man felt that Invisible man understood what Invisible Man was going through. Invisible man tries to figure out where he belongs throughout the whole novel and Invisible man thought that from his relationship with Battle, Invisible man could find a solution to his problem .
Invisible Man also uses allusions when he talks about Africa . Invisible Man says, “Cairo… is a city of no compromise” (89). Invisible man is talking about how Cairo doesn’t want to give Africa its freedom and Invisible man will not stop trying until they do get it . This quote shows how dedicated invisible is towards the people in Africa and how he won’t stop fighting for them. Invisible Man used allusions when Invisible man is trying to understand why he feels alone. Invisible Man says, “And to this day I have remained uncertain which world I actually inhabited” (44).
Invisible Man used this allusion to show how he felt as if he belonged in neither world and was unsure as to where he should be . Invisible man describes his invisibility as something like a curse . This can explain how Invisible man felt throughout the whole book because Invisible Man went through many experiences that he didn’t find comfortable with and Invisible Man wasn’t able to speak out about them because people believed him to be invisible and couldn’t see him . Invisible man also uses allusions when Invisible man first arrives at college.
Invisible Mans roommate asks Invisible Man to read his paper about Invisible Man. Invisible man then says, “I could see them now, the little boys in my hometown who had refused to play with me because I was black” (66). Invisible man used this allusion to show how he felt when people judged him based on his skin color and thought Invisible Man was inferior. Invisible man also uses an allusion when Invisible man is playing basketball at college. Ralph Ellison says, “‘You’ve got to remember you’re a nigger,’ someone once advised me… ‘you’ve got to remember you’re a nigger! ‘ Don’t ever forget it’ (74).