Sight & Blindness in the Invisible Man Essay

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Sight & Blindness in the Invisible Man

Throughout the novel, Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison works with many different images of blindness and impaired vision and how it relates to sight. These images prove to be fascinating pieces of symbolism that enhance the themes of perception and vision within the novel.
From the beginning of the novel where the Invisible Man is blindfolded to the end where he is walking down the streets of Harlem in dark glasses, 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 parallels their inability to understand inwardly what is going on in the world around them. Characters like
Homer A. Barbee and
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The white cloth symbolizes the white men's power over the black boys. Immediately the Invisible Man, "felt a sudden fit of blind terror" (21). The "terror" of not knowing and being shut out of the visible world is a pain inflicted upon the black youths by the white men. The black boys can no longer hold on to any dignity when they are figuratively "blindfolded" by whites. The
Invisible Man admits shamefully that, "I had no dignity" (22). The idea of blacks being figuratively "blindfolded" by whites symbolizes the helpless of people like the Invisible Man when around manipulative white men. The actual blindfolding reduces the black boys to flailing beasts and the fighting is pure chaos. This degrading act of being forced to stare at a naked woman followed by being blindfolded and forced to fight proves to be one of the most compelling examples of how powerful vision and blindness are when controlled by someone else.

At college the Invisible Man once more contemplates the power of sight when he passes by a statue of the Founder with a veil over his "empty eyes" (36), eyes which can no longer look out onto the world.
Nevertheless, the Founder is presented as a man of "God-inspired faith" (120) whom the students should try to emulate. However, the
Invisible Man questions, "whether the veil is really being lifted, or lowered more firmly in place"

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