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Invisible Man Symbols

Invisible Man Symbols research paper due and don’t know how to start it? How about like this?

In Ralph Ellison’s 1952 novel Invisible Man, symbols highlight the racism experienced by African-Americans while also alluding to themes of individual and cultural identity. Symbolism in Invisible Man vividly renders the narrator’s struggles that also represent the struggles of the black community. Three of the most prominent symbols are the following:

  1. Grinning slave coin bank
  2. The dancing Sambo doll
  3. The Liberty Paints factory
Invisible Man Symbols

The grinning slave made into a coin bank that eats coins perpetuates the racist image of the servile black “Uncle Tom” figure. This caricature of a man is happy to show obeisance so long as he gets his pittance of a few coins. The image of young black people scrambling for coins in the first chapter demonstrate this same stereotype. The Sambo slave doll presents a similar image, the lazy yet subservient black person. Since the doll dances, it also recalls imagery of the jovial, non-threatening black performer who feels privileged to entertain whites but never challenges their views.

Liberty Paint is a complicated symbol showing the place of African-Americans in American society. Blacks labor to make the paint, but whites earn most of the profit. The chemical ingredient “dead black” is used in creating the finished product, which comes out as “Optic White” – expressing the worry that the assimilation of black society into America society will turn out to be a devouring and erasure of any kind of black identity. Going beyond the mere portrayal of racism, these Invisible Man symbols point to the ambiguities of deeper issues of identity and culture.

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