Secondly, the book also reveals many examples of the types of social restriction and lack of economic power blacks have during this time. For instance, African Americans have a much lower social status than white society. By the time the invisible man arrives in New York he is beginning to feel a glimpse of hope and opportunity for his life. But as soon as he starts looking for a job, his hope drastically drops. There was hardly any work available for this young educated man and no one is eager to consider hiring him. When he does get a low paying job at Liberty Paints he meets Brockway, the engineer, to whom he assists.
When Brockway boasts that Our white [paint] is so white you can paint a chunka coal and you'd have to crack it open with a sledge hammer to prove it wasn't white clear through (Ellison 217). He illustrates that American society strives to cover up black identity with white purity, even in a place that is meant to promote equality. Brockway also mentions the constant fear he has of losing his job, and proclaims that young, black college graduates who come to the plant should be grateful to influential white men for providing them with jobs (SparkNotes Editors). This demonstrates the overall insecurity black men have concerning their jobs and position in society.
As a result of being fired from Liberty Paints, the invisible man now is forced to go to the local unemployment centre, which is called the Men's House, where he intends to stay temporarily. He describes the men's house to be full of various groups still caught up in the illusions that [have] just been boomeranged out of [his] head: college boys working to return to school down south . . .; old men of sixty or more still caught up in post civil war dreams of freedom of segregation, all with one thing in common: black skin (Ellison 256). Clearly this shows the unbalanced standards in society where the white population grab the jobs and the black population are left to fend for themselves, regardless of what potential they may hold. Even after the Civil War, America still holds the mindset of separating differences, which is not fair. (?) African Americans should have the same rights as white Americans. (?) Ultimately, white culture is trying to dictate their control over black culture. In New York, the invisible man stumbles across white men evicting an old couple from their home. These men are taking the man and his wife's belongings and scattering them across the street. This makes the invisible man angry which eventually prompts him to give a jolting speech to the others watching and initiating the carrying of the items back inside the apartment.
Once again this is an example of how unbalanced society has become. The fact that these men had no respect for this couples possessions shows the huge drift between the races and how low people are willing to go if it means that they gain a more authoritative position. In summation, it is plain to see the differences black and white races have in economic and social unfairness.
Lastly, one of the major themes in Invisible Man is the bondage to prejudices, their past, and their personalities people experience. At one point, the invisible man realizes that he will never be able to shed the image of a southern boy. While he is heading up north, the narrator is finding that there is a new degree of black freedom compared to the south. But while he is ordering breakfast one morning, the waiter assumes that he would like a stereotypically Southern meal.
The waiter thinks that because of how the invisible man looks and acts initially, and according to the way the young white man was brought up, won't let him order what he pleases. These indicators represent what little freedom to be himself the narrator does have, no matter where he goes. Likewise, some African Americans are still bonded to their past. Being a part of a chain gang in the South and then later escaping, Brother Tarp is introduced as a strange member of The Brotherhood who firmly believes in remembering the past days and continues to suffer from the wounds that he incurred during his nineteen years of slavery; his persistent limp attests to these wounds' permanence (SparkNotes Editor). Even though it reminds him of the pain, he still carries his shackles as if still bonded to the cruel happenings.
He is an example of how, even as he is supposedly free, the past can defy a person's identity. Thirdly, the invisible man is misidentified as the character Rinehart and this causes him to become enslaved to other people's misconceptions about who he his. In an attempt to protect himself from harm, he purchases dark sunglasses and a large white hat to disguise himself. Soon, various people are calling him Rinehart, among them; a prostitute thinking he was her pimp, a bookie, and revival group members near a church, thinking he was their leader. Rinehart is never revealed as an actual person, and so remains a mysterious character, with multiple personalities. This signifies the state at which invisible man is bonded to the many reputations that others have already created for him.
To conclude, the novel Invisible Man has many symbols, motifs, and themes to describe a black man's struggle in a white man's blind society. White society has predestined roles for African Americans, while blacks also experience social restrictions and lack the opportunity for economic success. Furthermore, they also have to fight with the stereotypes that bind them so tightly. All of these examples are a great representation of the uphill battle and frustrations of blacks at the time the book was written. Even today, when in our society we pride ourselves in minimizing racial differences among the population, but there are many issues that are met as if there has been no change. In the United States, the black unemployment rate has consistently been twice as high as the white unemployment rate for 50 years (Plumer). Clearly, the current society is still blind to their own prejudices and the only way to move forward is to eliminate the tendency, which is hard to achieve. But the real question is: is that even possible?
Liberty Paints. (2019, Nov 07).
Retrieved February 22, 2024 , from
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