Invisible Man

Mary the Mother: A Model of Self-Awareness in Invisible Man 12th Grade

Literature has often portrayed the motherly instincts of women in a positive yet complex light. In Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, the character of Mary shows an extreme act of motherhood when the narrator is offered a meal after becoming ill, and later when he falls short on his rent. These actions of kindness demonstrate Mary’s nurturing character. It is no coincidence that her name is Mary, as she serves as a mother figure to many, just as the coveted Virgin Mary. Mary is the first person that the narrator encounters after being in the hospital, which is a moment of personal change for him; Mary plants the seed in the narrator that will lead him to be successful in the Brotherhood. She also encourages him to own his identity and his past rather than push it away. In doing so, Mary serves as a model citizen for the black community and alludes to the greater meaning of the novel as a whole by teaching the underlying lesson that the past is just as much a part of a person as the present.

The first person Jack the Bear encounters after his hospital visit is Mary, and she tells him that “‘you got to lead and you got to fight and move us all on up a little higher’” (255). Since his visit to the hospital, Jack comes out of the...

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