Invisible Man

The Briefcase of Identity 11th Grade

Despite the termination of slavery following the civil war in America, oppression continued to exist through prejudice without any necessary halt. In Ralph Ellison’s novel, Invisible Man, a black man in his youth stumbles upon the troublesome route of self identification as he voyages from the South to Harlem, New York. As a result of the evident complexity in portraying the abstract idea of identity with accuracy, Ralph Ellison utilizes the symbol of a briefcase throughout the novel to permit the distinct comprehension of such a higher notion. The contents within the briefcase reflect the changeability of the narrator’s identity as he attempts to adapt to a prejudiced American society.

The acceptance of the scholarship contained in a briefcase initially demonstrates the narrator’s childish naivety prior to his journey to Harlem, New York. As the narrator delivers his speech in a boxing arena, he utters the phrase “social equality” rather than “social responsibility” (10), angering the white man and thus, provoking the narrator to eliminate the word equality from the initial phrase. The narrator’s elimination of the word he evidently perceives with justice demonstrates his conformity to the ideals of the white man. These ideals...

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