The IUP Journal of English Studies
Democracy and Dilemma: Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man

Article Details
Pub. Date : Jun, 2019
Product Name : The IUP Journal of English Studies
Product Type : Article
Product Code : IJES21906
Author Name : Nibir K Ghosh
Availability : YES
Subject/Domain : English Studies
Download Format : PDF Format
No. of Pages : 11



Beginning with the complexities created by the color line in the racial discourse of the world’s most powerful democracy, the USA, the paper brings into bold relief the significance of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man in the pantheon of African American writings. It offers a kaleidoscopic vision into the major historical landmarks that shaped the racial experience in America. The nameless black narrator, in his journey towards self-discovery, realizes he is invisible not because people cannot see him but because they refuse to see him. He is treated not as a human being but simply as a natural resource for the benefit and convenience of the white man. Unlike the overtly militant Bigger Thomas in Richard Wright’s Native Son, the narrator in Ellison’s novel accepts and affirms that even an invisible man has a “socially responsible” role to play. Rather than indulging in a politics of retreat, he prefers the stance of the politics of affirmation to assert his own identity and existence. By exploring all the significant aspects of the racial confrontation and by looking for a tangible solution to bring about a black-white interface, Ellison has produced through Invisible Man a state of mind from where one can begin to understand the “American Dilemma” better than ever before.


The white man comes to the wide and roaring river; he jumps on the black man’s back and shouts to him, “Swim!” The black man toils and finally reaches the far bank, exhausted; his hand reaches up for recompense, but the white man is indignant. “Without me,” he says, “you would never have crossed the river.” (Caute 1970)

When people like me, they tell me it is in spite of my color. When they dislike me they point out that it is not because of my color. Either way, I am locked into the infernal cycle. (Fanon 1967, 116)