In people. Although after getting passed this era of

In the early twentieth century in the
United States, a racial gap existed between African Americans and whites, which
included unequal rights and opportunities, that took side of the white American
culture. White Americans had more privilege then blacks, and aside from that,
African Americans dealt with discrimination for a long period of time. The
African American people were treated very poorly, and were considered more like
property, rather than human beings. This act of racism was more known in the
south, but was then dialed down from owning them as slaves to giving them a
“separate but equal” opportunity to be part of society, and this is better
known as segregation. Famous historical figures such as Martin Luther King Jr.,
Malcolm X, Rosa Park, and many others fought for a better change, and managed
to succeed at achieving for what they were set to do, which was to give the
African American people an equal life to the white American people. Although
after getting passed this era of racism, literary work has come into context.

Writers have illustrated the African American culture in their work, and
depicted life in their set point of view. Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man displays African American life through the
prospective of the narrator. The narrator’s “Invisibility” symbolized how
African American people were viewed as by society. Aside from this
symbolization, Invisible Man displayed
racism and the racial gap that existed between the black and white community,
and shadowed African American history throughout the story.

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“Invisible Man represented African American history, and displayed acts that
took place during African American history” (Masterplots II). One of the main
symbolizations Ellison presented in the novel was the Battle Royal. The
narrator takes a step into a “Battle Royal”, a brawl in which a group of
blindfolded black boys fight for the entertainment of whites, and is one of the
most famous scenes in American literature, which illustrates how whites had
control over those of people of color. Furthermore, Invisible Man included this scene to represent “Joe Louis and Jack
Johnson, who were slave fighters, and were the most famous black men in their
time” (Valiunas). In the novel, he takes part of a form of entertainment for
white onlookers. He is placed in a rink with gloves while blindfolded, and is
forced to fight with nine other black boys to determine the winner, winner
taking the prize home, which happens to be a briefcase. This also shows how the
African American people during this time period had to do whatever it takes to
gain little respect from the society they were “a part from”.   By
displaying this scene in the novel, it demonstrates how the Invisible Man displays both racism and African American
history.

Not only was symbolization by the
narrator used to represent past African American figures, Invisible Man’s theme of racism also used historical context to
display “three historic shifts that occurred after the war” (Allport). Allport
says, “The primary historical events shaping the action of the book are the
changes associated with the end of World War II, in 1945”.  Economic change occurred which opened up job
opportunities for the people and allowed for wages to increase. This goes into
the next historical context of The Great Migration to the north. In the novel,
the narrator goes north to New York, for a job opportunity that was given to
him, and it can represent the Great Migration that happened in real time. In
addition, the threat of racial violence was always present, and the fear of
riots was used by the white establishment to discourage real change in
discrimination. World War II destroyed the hopes of the African American people
due to American racism.

Michael Hardin’s article demonstrates the
images of passing and invisibility from the book. “There is an intriguing
convergence of “passing,” miscegenation, and homoeroticism within the
metaphor of invisibility”, he says, which could draw back to the Invisible Man considering invisibility
is one of the main themes of the novel. Miscegenation and homoeroticism led the
white community to fear and disliking of the African people, which is another
aspect of racial thoughts against them. In the novel, neither were aspects of
the narrator considering he was isolated within himself throughout, but if it
is thought for invisibly to be representing this, then it is probably included
or represented in the novel in some way. Also “In 1952, when Ralph Ellison’s
Invisible Man was published, lynches were not uncommon; by some measures, the
last “official” lynching, Emmett Till’s, was in 1955. Miscegenation
was a crime in thirty states, including the entire South. Sodomy was a crime in
every state. Given this environment, the unnamed protagonist of Invisible Man
has many reasons for wanting to stay underground, to remain invisible”
(Hardin). Could also back the fact that the narrator wanted to stay on the down
low to avoid any oncoming situation that could have occurred if he did not
remain isolated or invisible.

Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man uses symbolism to represent racism and the gap
between society that was brought up in the early twentieth century.  He also used the novel to portray African
American History throughout the story. The introduction to the “Battle Royal”
exemplified the history that was to be depicted within the Invisible Man, and used racism as a form to display historical
context throughout as well. Adding on, invisibility also had an impact on the
narrator to keep him out of trouble. Like Hardin had mentioned, “Given this
environment, the unnamed protagonist of Invisible Man has many reasons for
wanting to stay underground, to remain invisible”. The Invisible Man was great at illustrating African American History.