Blindness is Defined

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Blindness is defined as the lack of perception, awareness, and ignorance one might endure during a time of uncertainty. The novel Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, illustrates the narrator’s journey in discovering his own identity in society as an African American male. His invisibility is manifested by the many cultures in the community that are blind to the ability of seeing real nature and beauty within a human being. The narrator is also blinded by the notions that society has instilled into him on how one should present themselves. He encounters characters throughout his journey blinding him or removing the veil from his eyes that the people have bestowed upon him. In the end, he realizes that other people’s limitations of vision restrict his ability to act. As a whole, the narrator and society are conjointly blinded by America’s false perception of social class.

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One of the characters the narrator comes across that blinds him is Dr. Bledsoe. Bledsoe is the president of the college he attended and became his mentor in the beginning of the novel. The narrator was intrigued about Bledsoe’s notions and ideas as he had the same beliefs as his grandfather. They both believed that one should agree and follow what white people say because they are probably right and to not cause any problems. Bledsoe believes the less African Americans confront the issues, the more power will be given to their community. The only ones I even pretend to please are big white folks, and even those I control more than they control me. This is a power set-up, son, and I’m at the controls. You think about that.

When you buck against me, you’re bucking against power, rich white folk’s power, the nation’s powerwhich means government power!” ( Ellison 97). His ignorance guided him to believe that following what the white man says will lead to success because they are always right. Essentially, this is how Bledsoe became president of the school, due to agreeing with white men. He gives that advice to the narrator, but it didn’t serve him any justice. This lead to Bledsoe becoming a key contributor to the narrator’s blindness of his identity. By instilling the mindset to agree with people in order to climb higher on the socio economic status creates the concept of blindness of the narrator’s own aspirations in life. Bledsoe blinded the narrator’s ability to create new inventions and ideas to help him stand out and really make a change in the community. He also blinded the narrator’s views on the African American culture and created animosity towards his own kind. This is one factor the narrator is blind to society and his own ideas.

Another key patron that blinded the narrator is Brother Jack, who directed the brotherhood. He discovers the narrator after he gave a speech to a group of angry people and was impressed with his speaking ability. Jack offers him housing and food in return of joining the brotherhood. Little did the narrator know he was being used to display the fame of the brotherhood that would be soon used to flourish their ideology. Brother Jack believes that African Americans need to be told what to do and think by the white people. His literal blindness also serves as a symbol due to his flawed vision of the African American community.

This is also ironic that the narrator follows a person who is literally and figuratively blind, which influences the narrator to also be blind, perpetuating negative perceptions of African Americans.
Brother Jacks literal blindness symbolizes his ignorant conception of African Americans. He stripped the narrator’s identity by replacing his name, ideas, and his life back home. “That is your new name,” Brother Jack said. “Start thinking of yourself by that name from this moment. Get it down so that even if you are called in the middle of the night you will respond. Very soon you shall be known by it all over the country. You are to answer to no other, understand?”(Ellison 133). Without warning, he was given a task to be someone else, yet he never truly found himself while living his normal life. This created the narrator to become blind to the new notions of how brother Jack expected him to be.

Lastly, the narrator contributed to his own blindness, by not staying true to his own beliefs and letting people dictate his own future. In the beginning of the novel, the narrator was blinded to the customs African Americans had and didn’t take part in any traditions. He let society influence his behavior to not be proud of his culture. He was set up to be blind during his early stages of life from the beliefs and notions of his grandfather. Being blind at a young age made the narrator be comfortable with following other people’s ideology, making him an easy target for people with influence.

And my problem was that I always tried to go in everyone’s way but my own. I have also been called one thing and then another while no one really wished to hear what I called myself(Ellison 253). The narrator made a choice to listen to society and ultimately blinded himself by following what people told him. His blindness lead to him obtaining a weak mentality and created an opening for people to take control of his mind. I was looking for myself and asking everyone except myself questions which I, and only I, could answer. It took me a long time and much painful boomeranging of my expectations to achieve a realization everyone else appears to have been born with: That I am nobody but myself (Ellison 303). He went through an ongoing cycle of people telling him what he can and cannot do. By listening to others, the narrator continues to be oppressed by society’s notions about African Americans.

In conclusion, blindness is the lack of awareness to one’s state of mind. Throughout the novel the narrator faces many challenges within himself and the community that dictate his role in society. Essentially, he lives his life for the people more than himself. His lack of knowledge as a kid resulted in a life of confusion of his own identity. He comes across ignorant characters that lead him into a life of uncertainty about who he truly is.. All together, the narrator and the community are both blinded by their own false awareness of society’s system.

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Blindness Is Defined. (2019, Nov 07). Retrieved February 5, 2023 , from

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