Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man

Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man parallels Nella Larsen’s Quicksand. Both stories are about well educated black southerners leaving the Tuskegee institute to go to Harlem. However, Larsen paints a picture of a sustaining, vivacious Harlem, where the narrator of Invisible Man meets little else but hardship in the city. After leaving the south, he cannot find work, is used as a lab rat for electro shock therapy, and begins to work for a radical black civil rights group, The Brotherhood. However, he begins to dislike The Brotherhood, feeling as if they are using Harlem and its inhabitants as pawns in a much larger game that they are playing. One night he returns to Harlem to find a race riot going on. In an effort to evade the police, he goes down a man hole. The book closes with him saying that he has been living underground since. In both novels, the main character experiences alienation within themselves because of their race, and both leave Harlem to get away from what they see as the essential blackness of the community. Ellison published in the 1950s, so 30 years after Larsen, which shows her forward thinking ways and her ability to talk about this nuanced part of her identity before many other authors. The tone and outcomes of both novels are obviously different. This could be partially attributed, as Hadji posited, to the differences that gender roles created in men and women’s experiences of diaspora. This video is of no exceptional artistic merit, but it gives the opening of Ellison’s novel and explains why the narrator feels he is invisible. Invisibility for Ellison is akin to the overwhelming quicksand that Larsen discusses.


One thought on “Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man”

  1. I think that it is interesting that the clip draws attention the the reports in the newspaper the next day. Although it is a short clip, and therefore cannot go into a great deal of of detail, it does hint at the significance of the mediascape in dealing with issues of race.



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