Author: Sherry Helms
“Invisible Man“ is a masterpiece of literary work, written by a man who has been and will be visible throughout the world of literature. And, yes, that man is Ralph Waldo Ellison. Today is his 98th Birth Anniversary, and it is absolutely justified to make a review of his award winning book “Invisible Man” on his birthday. Securing a place in the list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century, this book won the author the National Book Award in 1953.
Encapsulating the essence of a classic work, Invisible Man archives the travels and experiences of its narrator, a young, thoughtful but nameless African-American protagonist. Through the words of this nameless narrator, Ellison addresses many of the social and intellectual issues that African-Americans were facing in the early twentieth century. He elicits a shocking picture of social and political scenes of America, confronting Black Nationalism and Marxism along with the reformist racial policies of Booker T. Washington.
In order to search for a context in which to know his identity, the narrator, a black man, considers himself to be in a very peculiar state. And, that is the state of “an invisible man”. In the Prologue, Ellison’s narrator tells readers, “I live rent-free in a building rented strictly to whites, in a section of the basement that was shut off and forgotten during the nineteenth century.”
Ralph Ellison had stated about the book that “Invisible Man” is not just about the black experience in America; rather it is an account of every person’s “invisibility” in a world that tells us how to think of each other.
Invisible Man is undoubtedly a book about racism in America, chronicling the hellish levels of American intolerance and cultural blindness. The African-American protagonist in the book is merely a vehicle for Ellison’s much broader social commentary. The protagonist is the victim of human race stumbling down the path to identity, challenged and successful to varying degrees.
Unambiguously written, this book has complex, heart-rending, but page-turner story. This book is a must-read for everyone who thinks they have a grip on the American history.