The Brotherhood in Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man

In Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man, the Brotherhood was using the narrator as a mouthpiece and to them the narrator is just as invisible as he was to the world at large. The organization seems a lot like the Soviet Union. The Brotherhood only cares for its own interests and the survival of the organization. As a result, no member is treated like an individual and everyone is sacrificed for the cause (the cause is the well-being of everyone).  It seems to me that the narrator sees these things about the Brotherhood early on but goes along with their demands in order to get the perks for as long as he possibly can. In the end, he finally rejects his grandfather’s way of going along with everything and leaves.

The narrator’s experiences of the world around him allow him to grow into a man who is no longer invisible to himself even though he is still invisible to the world at large. His search for identity, however, is not complete. Our identities continue to evolve throughout our lives and the people we are at old age are probably not the people we were as children. Nevertheless, even if that identity remains the same time it had been challenged over and over by different aspects of life so that the identity that remains is the true one. By the end of the novel, the narrator is only beginning his journey. “The hibernation is over. I must shake off the old skin and come up for breath.” (580). The narrator is finally shaking off the identities that society placed upon him and embarking on a search for his true identity (one that he defines himself).

Anonymous first-person Narrator in Invisible Man

Ralph Ellison chose an anonymous first-person narrator for Invisible Man in order to connect his voice to the reader on a very personal level. The reader does not know his name or what he really looks like but hears his thoughts and sees his observations. While personal background information about the narrator provides the reader with context for his experiences, it also creates barriers between the narrator and the reader. But the invisible man remains a mystery for basically the entire novel blurring the line between the narrator and the reader. In other words, the style of narration allows the reader to experience what the narrator is experiencing and the invisible man’s voice becomes the reader’s choice. Thus readers of all races, genders, and cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds are able to see themselves as the invisible man and to connect to him in a way that they would not be able to otherwise.

While Ralph Ellison’s narrator speaks to the reader in first-person, his observations of the world around him are expressed in third person. His narration is not confined to his own thoughts and feelings. Instead, the narrator’s extremely detailed observations of place establish the setting and the mood of each scene. In many scenes, the invisible man appears to be almost a fly on the wall, someone who is merely observing what is happening around him. The style of narration allows Ellison to leave the narrator’s head and depict the environment from a perspective of an almost unbiased observer.