Illuminating the Darkness
"Now this is the Law of the Jungle---as old and as true as the sky/
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die."
~Rudyard Kipling, "The Law of the Jungle" [i]
In his novel "The Invisible Man" Ralph Ellison presents, from a 1950s perspective, the struggle of becoming a black man in the United States. Ultimately, Ellison is seeking to convey the effort of forging an identity in a society that scorns one because of how they identify him. While the resultant invisibility is a powerful message, equally as powerful is the journey by which the narrator matures into adulthood. In the first chapter of the novel, "The Battle Royal," Ellison shrewdly reverses the conventional view of the "heart of darkness" as characteristic of Africa to symbolize the brutality of the American South. By selecting specific words, Ellison equates the African- American rite of passage into manhood with the vicious rape of innocence by animalistic white men in their self-created jungle arena.
Ellison injects the theme of the rite of passage from the beginning of Chapter 1, "The Battle Royal," when the narrator discusses his graduation day. This is effective...
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