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Raul Pena


Mr. Canek

11 January 2018

Invisibility: Extinct or Still Happening?

In life, there are many things that people struggle with. From small issues like a stressful

day, to bigger issues like racism. In Ralph Ellison’s novel, ​Invisible Man, ​the main issue in the

book surrounds the narrator and how he is always being stereotyped and seen as invisible. The

issue of invisibility is apparent in many different ways but first you need to know Ellison’s motif

of invisibility. Ellison’s motif of invisibility is tricky and sometimes hard to understand. The

simplest explanation of invisibility would be not being seen for who you truly are. Invisibility, a

big issue today, can still be fixed by simply being yourself and not letting others tell you who

you are. If you are yourself, do not follow others around, and make your own pathway, you can

reveal the real you. The main issue of invisibility that I see today, is the way the education

system discriminates against the children of immigrant families. To understand more of the

social issue today I want to talk about Ellison’s motif of invisibility and how it relates to the

social issue today.

Invisibility can derive from many things like people looking down at you, putting

stereotypes on you just because of your race or color. This makes you invisible because it

doesn’t show them who you really are, but rather what they think you are. It’s like a

prejudgment. At one point in the novel, ​Invisible Man, ​the narrator was on a bus with the vet and
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Crenshaw. They started talking about how the vet was being transferred, then the conversation

turned to talk about the South and the North. The vet advises the narrator, “‘Now is the time for

offering fatherly advice,’ he said, ‘but I’ll have to spare you that-since I guess I’m nobody’s

father except my own. Perhaps that’s the advice to give you: Be your own father, young man.

And remember, the world is possibility if only you’ll discover it”’ (Ellison 156). Through this

passage, Ellison explains the motif of being invisible because the narrator is just being a

follower. He is doing what other people want him to do and not what the narrator wants to do.

Through this he is becoming invisible to himself, similar to a robot who follows the commands

of others.

Some may argue that the narrator is simply following the instructions of others because

he is already at a disadvantage for being a minority. Therefore, if he follows the rules and does

what people tell him to do, he will be able to go places since people will not have a problem with

him. This is a very wrong and disgusting perspective because trying to excuse the fact that

someone is being exploited and he doesn’t have the willpower to say anything about it because

of the fact that he is a minority is repulsive. The perspective is twisted and wrong in so many

ways because for all one knows he could be so much better if he was his own father who made

his own decisions.

Being your own father helps you become visible in many ways. For starters you can stand

up for what you believe in. You become the person you always wanted to become. Visibility

occurs when you stop being afraid and start coming out of your shell the way the narrator came

out and was true to himself when he ate a yam. In the novel, the narrator ran out of his

apartment. He was outside in the cold snow and found a wagon selling yams. He sparked a small
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conversation with the person selling the yams and as he started eating the yam a sudden

realization came to him. The narrator exclaims, “ I walked along, munching the yam, just as

suddenly overcome by an intense feeling of freedom-simply because I was eating while walking

along the street. It was exhilarating. I no longer had to worry about who saw me or about what

was proper. To hell with all that, and as sweet as the yam actually was, it became like nectar with

the thought” (Ellison 264). Ellison shows that small things like eating what you love without

being judged . These small actions don’t seem like alot but sometimes you aren’t allowed to do

these actions because to society they might seem wrong. To you it might seem like their is

nothing wrong about it and such but to the eyes of others it might be wrong and unthoughtful.

These sort of small things help reveal a person’s true self because they are doing what they want

to do. They are being themselves. Ellison also shows the way that if you are yourself and you do

what you want to do without caring about people’s opinions, you will be open and more true to

yourself. The narrator only ate a yam and felt free, but even little things like that, that show who

you truly are can help you become visible to the people who misunderstand you. With all this

knowledge of invisibility and visibility we could relate these concepts back to issues happening

today as well.

Immigrant children suffer from invisibility caused by the education system. The

education system discriminates and looks down upon immigrant children. In Jennifer Keys

Adair’s September 2015 article, ​Impact of Discrimination on the Early Schooling Experiences of

Children from Immigrant Families, ​Adair talk about the major ways children are being

discriminated against and the actions one can take to resolve these issues. In the article Jennifer

argues that, “Children of immigrants face three different types of segregation in school settings:
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by race/ethnicity, language and income. In Texas, for example, nearly one-quarter of schools

have majority-Latino, English-Learner, and low-income student bodies. Thus, children of

immigrants are concentrated in schools with low exposure to English-fluent students and a large

number of other low-income students who may also face academic disadvantages.” In this

article, Jennifer explains how schools segregate the students which in turn harms and puts the

kids at a disadvantage. Because of this disadvantage, kids may have less confidence or be more

scared due to being looked down upon. What makes things worse is that since every student

around them is also struggling academically, they would not be able to get help from other

students, which would lower their self confidence even more. This shows how the kids are

invisible because they aren’t seen for who they are or what they can be, but rather they are seen

as low level students who do not know English and need extra support just to catch up.

In conclusion, invisibility is the idea of not being seen for who you are and being

misinterpreted. To become visible, you must climb from those misinterpretations and show them

who you are, who you can be, and that you will never be what others want you to be. This can

help the social issue that immigrant children are facing today. If you consider disadvantages they

can still succeed and blossom if they are just themselves and if they keep going and fighting for

the top to become visible. The motifs of invisibility and visibility are important because they

relate to many issues that occur in the present day. The world is filled with problems. As

immigrants and minimum wage workers, coming out and bringing those problems into the light

will be the only way to help those in need of visibility.

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Works Cited

Aldair, Jennifer Keys. 2015. ​The Impact of Discrimination on the Early Schooling Experiences

of Children from Immigrant Families. ​Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute.

Ellison, Ralph. ​Invisible Man. ​Vintage Books, 1952.