The Briefcase and the "Invisible Man" Book Review by Thukydides

A review of "Invisible Man" by Ralph Emerson with a focus on the symbolism of the briefcase.
# 151914 | 6,416 words | 3 sources | MLA | 2011 | UA
Published on Oct 24, 2012 in Literature (American) , African-American Studies (Racism)

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"Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison is one of the seminal works of the 20th century African American literature. This paper examines how the author addresses the problems of societal acceptance, cultural conformity, individuality and racial identity through the use of rich and diverse symbolism that helps to convey his point to the reader. The narrator is a young African American who in the course of the novel comes to be disillusioned with both mainstream American society and radical politics of his time. The paper further looks at how Ellison uses different symbols and metaphors to develop this character and in particular, examines the symbolism of the briefcase awarded to the narrator in the beginning of the novel, and its significance for the "growth" of his character.

From the Paper:

"After the battle royal the narrator experiences a lot of hopes and dreams, trying to believe that his future in the college will be a way to the future career. Later that evening he dreams of his deceased grandfather, who at his deathbed instructed him to undermine the white supremacy while maintaining apparent obedience (Ellison 16). However, in his dream he sees a mysterious old man who resembles his grandfather who opens the briefcase for him. The narrator opens the letter, then sees it contains another one, then finds the third one, and finally, after he opens several seemingly identical letters, he finds the last one in which the following is written: "To Whom It May Concern: Keep This Nigger-Boy Running" (Ellison 33). The man who resembles his grandfather then laughs at the naivete of the narrator who assumed that the whites would treat him as an equal. "

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Early, Gerald L. Ralph Ellison: Invisible Man. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish, 2009. Print.
  • Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. 5th ed. New York: Vintage Books, 1995. Print.
  • Hill, Michael D., and Hill, Lena M. Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man: a Reference Guide. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2008. Print.

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