Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man is a novel about an African American man living in the United States during the early twentieth century. Though he is Invisible to society, he still tries to make his way in the world and find his place within it. The novel follows his struggles and triumphs as he navigates through a racially divided America.
We are all Tod Cliftons’ trapped in a never-ending dance, struggling to be individualists while wearing masks of individuality. However, unlike Tod Clifton, most of us will not discover that the person manipulating the string is not ourselves.
We are all Invisible Men. In the novel, Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison, the protagonist is a young black man who is struggling to find his identity in a society that tells him he is invisible. He goes through many struggles and experiences racism, violence, and betrayal. However, despite all of this, he still tries to hold on to his sense of self and individuality. In the end, he realizes that he is nothing more than a puppet dancing on the strings of those who control him.
While this may be a depressing realization for some, it is also a freeing one. Once you realize that you are not in control of your own life, you can stop struggling so hard to control everything. You can let go of the need to be perfect and the need to please everyone. You can be yourself, without worrying about what other people think.
So, if you feel like you are dancing on Invisible Man’s strings, don’t worry. It just means that you are human. And being human is a beautiful thing.
The novel The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison is full of images of dolls, implying that no one has complete control over their lives. The Battle Royal depiction serves as the novel’s first instance of doll imagery. Yellow hair “that was like that of a kewpie doll” (19) was noted in the nude, blonde woman.
In this passage, Ellison draws a firm link between the situation of the black male and that of the white woman. The fact that they are puppets or dolls in the novel is by no means a coincidence. In the book, the woman and Africa are merely props for white males.
The African is constantly being told what to do and the white woman is nothing more than a sexual object. Another example of doll imagery can be found in the scene where Invisible Man is hiding in the basement of the Golden Day. The prostitutes that work there are described as looking like “dolls made of wax” (168). Ellison again compares the women to inanimate objects, this time emphasizing their lack of emotion. The women are so removed from their own humanity that they seem almost lifeless.
The final example of doll imagery comes near the end of the novel when Invisible Man is living in the Invisible Man’s cave. He has a vision of his dead brother, Clifton, who tells him “You got to wake up now” (522). Ellison uses the image of a doll to show how Invisible Man is so removed from reality that he is practically sleepwalking through life. The doll is a metaphor for the African’s lack of agency and autonomy. By repeatedly comparing the characters in his novel to dolls, Ellison makes it clear that they are not in control of their own lives.
Tod Clifton’s Sambo doll dancers are the most stunning use of doll imagery. The tiny tissue paper figure has the potential to completely transform the Invisible Man. When he sees that it is Tod Clifton, not the narrator, who is selling the horrible dolls, the narrator is filled with humiliation and fury. But what triggered this surge of rage? It isn’t Tod Clifton, but rather than him.
Clifton has become a caricature of his former self and the Invisible Man cannot stand to see him in this state. The novel Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison is full of interesting and complex characters. Tod Clifton is one such character who goes through a metamorphosis throughout the course of the novel. He starts out as a bright-eyed young boy with dreams of making something of himself.
However, he eventually becomes disillusioned with life and descends into selling Sambo dolls on the street. The Invisible Man feels great shame and anger when he sees Clifton in this state. It is a powerful example of how low someone can fall when they lose hope in life.
However, his understanding of his position as a puppet causes his rage. “For a second, our eyes met and he gave me a contemptuous smirk” (433) shows the reader this moment of insight for our narrator. It demonstrates to the reader that Tod Clifton was aware of his place as a puppet all along and chooses to enlighten the narrator at this time in the narrative.
This is a turning point for the Invisible Man because he finally sees how he has allowed himself to be controlled by others. This newfound knowledge leads him to lash out in anger and desire for revenge. Ellison uses this episode to demonstrate how the Invisible Man’s journey toward self-discovery is often fraught with violence and conflict.
The Invisible Man understands that he has always been a slave and a pawn to others throughout his life. Whether it was Bledsoe, his grandfather, or the brotherhood that controlled him is unimportant; nevertheless, there has always been an imperceptible thread attached to him that governed all he did. Not only does he have a string, but his own physical features are reminiscent of Sambo dolls’ deformed bodies.
He is black, he is nameless, and most importantly he is Invisible. This final quality above all else has allowed him to be controlled so thoroughly. In his own words: “I am Invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.” (Ellison 3) And it’s true, throughout the novel various characters only recognize our protagonist as a tool to be used for their own gain without any acknowledgement of his actual personhood.
This lack of acknowledgement is what Invisible Man must come to terms with if he ever wants to break free from the chains that have been holding him back his entire life. He must accept that he exists and that he has value as an individual before he can hope to achieve anything else. Only then will he be able to see the strings that have been pulling him all along and cut them free.
Why are his fists clenched? In a nutshell, this is the Brotherhood message: strong, ready to defend what one is supposed to be for. These fists, on the other hand, are only under the control of the person who controls the strings. The black Sambo doll blissfully oblivious that he’s nothing more than a toy. He beams at the crowd and smiles back at the puppeteer. It’s this doll’s grin that infuriates the Invisible Man at first.
The Invisible Man is indignant because he realizes that he has been playing the part of this character all his life. He has been a willing participant in his own oppression. And, like the black Sambo doll, he has gone along smiling and unaware of the true nature of his situation. (448)
It is only when the Invisible Man cuts the strings that he is able to see clearly. He is no longer controlled by outside forces and can finally act on his own behalf. This moment of clarity allows him to see the true nature of the world around him and to begin the long process of asserting his own identity. (449)
The Invisible Man’s journey toward self-discovery is a difficult one, but ultimately it is a journey that all must take. We all must learn to see past the illusions and false narratives that have been created about us. We must learn to view the world through our own eyes and to create our own stories. (450)