Personal Identity In Ellison's Invisible Man

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Introduction The novel takes place in the South of The United States of America and in Harlem during the 1930’s. During this time in history, black were subject to racial segregation and discrimination. Racial tensions between whites and blacks were more prominent due to events such as the Great Depression and the Great Migration which had a huge impact on social ideologies. The social backdrop allows Ellison to incorporate the issues of 1930s American, in order to allow him to employ the significance of personal identity in a society in which individuality is supressed. This is shown through the narrative of the narrator, living that period of time. Racism is used to illustrate the restriction and suppression of personal identity and its…show more content…
The narrator’s absence of identity is primary presented in the prologue when he says “I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me”. This shows how humanity is portrayed in which peoples identity are changed through lies, racism and blindness. Identity is defined as “the set of meanings that define who one is when one is an occupant of a particular role in society”. The nameless narrator is the protagonist in this novel, he tries to define his identity through different characters, and each “prescribed role” given to him is an inauthentic identity, thus hindering him from exposing his true identity. The invisibility is due to the race of the character as an African American living in a white racist social hierarchy. The significance of placing the novel in 1930s American is that it contains a society in which people hide and suppress their true personal identities. Between the years 1890 and 1915, Booker T. Washington was the dominant leader in the African-American community. He represented the black community of American during the Atlanta Compromise in 1895, in which an agreement was struck in 1895 between African-American leaders and Southern white leaders. This agreement was that blacks should accept discrimination for the time being and concentrate on elevating themselves through hard work and material prosperity. Washington is heavily connected to the novel as the narrator’s graduation speech includes quotes from Washington’s Atlanta exposition address. This ideology is perpetuated through many of the character included in the novel. People are encouraged to furthering their own personal ambitions instead of working together for equality. Black with these ideals act as prawns and further the power of white people while supressing the power of the blacks. This ideology is linked with the narrator at the beginning of

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