Sight and Blindness in "The Invisible Man" Essay

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Pages: 10

Throughout the novel Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison works with many different images of blindness and impaired vision and how it relates to perception. These images prove to be fascinating pieces of symbolism that enhance the themes of impression and vision within the novel. From the beginning of the novel when the narrator is blindfolded during the battle royal to the end where Brother Jack's false eye pops out, images of sight and blindness add to the meaning of many scenes and characters. In many of these situations the characters inability to see outwardly often directly parallels their inability to perceive inwardly what is going on in the world around them. Characters like Homer A. Barbee and Brother Jack believe they are all knowing …show more content…
Barbee's blindness serves to make him unable to see a person's genuine character. Dr. Bledsoe, the president of the narrator's college, proves selfish, ambitious, and treacherous. He is a black man who puts on a mask of servitude to the white community, when really all he cares about is his position of power at the college. He tells the narrator, "I'll have every Negro in the country hanging on tree limbs by morning if it means staying where I am" (143). Bledsoe is just a tangible, visible representation of the college's theory of black thralldom to whites, even if he does not completely subscribe to the idea himself. The white trustees see Bledsoe as an honest associate dedicated to the cause, but he is really quite deceitful. "The white folk tell everybody what to think—except men like me. I tell them; that's my life, telling white folk how to think about the things I know about" (143), he explains to the narrator. After the narrator accidentally takes Mr. Norton, a trustee, to the poor side of town and what he sees nearly gives him a heart attack, Bledsoe decides that he is going to remove the narrator from college. He gives the narrator seven sealed letters of recommendation to give to contacts in New York in order to get a job, but after several failed attempts, a man named Mr. Emerson shows the narrator that the letter was actually one of condemnation. The narrator was blind to Bledsoe's intentions because he was not able to see