Symbols Of Race In Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man

Words: 2004
Pages: 9

Symbols of Race in Invisible Man
Years after the first Africans were shipped to the Americas, war gripped the nations and the enslaved African-Americans, now three generations removed from their ancestors, saw this as an opportunity for freedom and social advancement. After the war, they did gain their freedom and a hope arose in the newly freedmen that Reconstruction would prove to bring forth social progress for African-Americans that the nation had never seen. They hoped to be truly free and even equal to those that had once oppressed them. Though freedom came, the equality they hoped for was never achieved. The former slavemasters and many Caucasians at this time wanted to remind the freedmen what their role was. To ensure this social caste
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The boys are forced to watch as to admire and desire her pure and utter whiteness to reinforce the superiority of the white race, but also forbidden from touching her (Lee). By placing the boys in such a situation, “there is an equivalence between the sexual fetishization of the woman as a blonde kewpie doll-an icon of sexual desirability and white supremacy-and the half-naked young black men about to box each other while blindfolded-symbols of sexual potency and neutralized threats to white male supremacy.” (Wilcox) The white men then in a sense use this forced impotency and repression of desire because of her whiteness to maintain the concept of white-male sexual supremacy. To take this point further, “It is this libidinal quality of white male racism--and specifically the erotic gratification derived from subordinating black men which Ellison underscores in his novel.” (qtd. in Hardin) This equivalency …show more content…
Throughout the years, money has always been seen a mode for social advancement and the mere fact that this money is fake is telling of the treatment of African-Americans in America. After fighting, the boys, bloodied and bruised, are taken to a rug which has bills and coins on it and start to grab as much as they can (Ellison) In this scene, African American men are forced to fight each other for money they do not know is fake and the entertainment of white men. After the boys fight in “Battle Royale”, the boys reach for the money they were promised. While trying to grab the coins the boys realize that the rug is electrically charged and they are shocked. The young men were “unaware of how they are being manipulated in their attempts to grab the most highly conductive signifiers of capital.” (Wilcox) This symbolizes the employment situation that African Americans’ had been placed in after they were allowed their freedom. Blacks were allowed their freedom to work after being enslaved for so long that they, like the boys in “Battle Royal,” eagerly leaped upon the chance to earn a living, but no matter how hard they strive for this they will always see their white counterparts becoming successful, while they remain stagnant, almost like a glass house atop a hill they will never reach. However, money was never enough to raise them from the social status they had been assigned from birth due to their color, thus symbolizing