How To Write An Essay On Invisible Man

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Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements / paper topics on “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison that can be used as essay starters. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in “Invisible Man” and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements for “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison offer a summary of different elements that could be important in an essay but you are free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “Invisible Man” at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent paper.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Reader’s Relationship with the Protagonist in “Invisible Man”

In the opening paragraphs of “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, the narrator, who in the first sentence reveals himself as “an invisible man" (3), may elicit the reader’s empathy and identification. Yet less than a page later, the narrator who has approached the reader with such intimacy and openness has turned into a violent thug. This is only the first of many contradictions and complexities that the reader will observe in the narrator’s personality and his actions throughout “Invisible Man”. Given the changes that the narrator undergoes throughout the course of the novel, how does your relationship with him as a reader evolve? Do you feel more or less sympathetic towards his condition, and what manipulates your feelings? How does this roller coaster of emotion leave you feeling at the end of “Invisible Man? Did Ellison effectively create a compelling, believable protagonist?

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: The Advantages of Invisibility in “Invisible Man”

While “Invisible Man” would appear to be a sociopolitical observation about the oppressiveness of invisibility, there are several moments in Invisible Man in which the narrator asserts that there are certainadvantages of being invisible. Is he being sarcastic? Ironic? Or has he adapted an oppressive condition to fit his own needs? Use your essay to write an answer to the question: What are the advantages of invisibility? Use the narrator’s words, as well as your observations, insights, and analysis to support your argument.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: The Process of Self-Development in “Invisible Man”

The narrator goes through several significant experiences and moments which the reader might identify as watersheds in the narrator’s development in “Invisible Man”. One such moment is the battle royal. Another turning point occurs after the narrator takes the white trustee, Mr. Norton, out to the slave shacks, and he is harshly rebuked by the school president, Dr. Bledsoe. What are other moments that serve as crucibles of self-development, and what lessons does the narrator learn? How do these experiences ultimately shape who he becomes?

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: The Symbolism of Games in “Invisible Man”

One of the earliest scenes in Invisible Man is the pathetic fight called the battle royal, in which the narrator and other young black men are thrown into a ring, blindfolded, and provoked to fight one another. There are other games in the novel, too, both overt and symbolic. Consider, for instance, the “game" that Dr. Bledsoe plays with both blacks and whites. What are the games that you can identify in the novel, and what is their symbolic function with respect to the theme?

Thesis Statement/Essay Topic #5: The Metaphor of the Underground Hole in “Invisible Man”

Another powerful symbol/metaphor in “Invisible Man” is the narrator’s underground home. What sorts of associations and psychological connections does the hole suggest? We often think of the underground as a place of darkness, secrets, clandestine activity, inhabited by nocturnal creatures. What does the underground home of the narrator symbolize in relationship to the theme of the novel?

* For an informative and helpful article/essay exploring the theme of advice and narration in “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, click here *

This list of important quotations from “The Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from “Invisible Man” listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison they are referring to.

“I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me." (3)

“It is sometimes advantageous to be unseen, although it is most often rather wearing on the nerves." (3)

“You ache with the need to convince yourself that you do exist in the real world…." (4)

“Most of the time…I am not…overtly violent. I remember that I am invisible and walk softly so as not to awaken the sleeping ones. Sometimes it is best not to awaken them; there are few things in the world as dangerous as sleepwalkers. I learned in time though that it is possible to carry on a fight against them without their realizing it." (5)

“…[T]o whom can I be responsible, and why should I be, when you refuse to see me? And wait until I reveal how truly irresponsible I am. Responsibility rests upon recognition, and recognition is a form of agreement." (14)

“All my life I had been looking for something, and everywhere I turned someone tried to tell me what it was. I accepted their answers too, though they were often in contradiction and even self-contradictory. I was naïve. I was looking for myself and asking everyone except myself questions which I, and only I, could answer. It took me a long time and much painful boomeranging of my expectations to achieve a realization that everyone else appears to have been born with: That I am nobody but myself." (15)

“[Y]ou both fail to understand what is happening to you. You cannot see or hear or smell the truth of what you see—and you, looking for destiny! It’s classic! And the boy, this automaton, he was made of the very mud of the region and sees far less than you. Poor stumblers, neither of you can see the other. To you he is a mark on the score-card of your achievement, a thing and not a man; a child, or even less—a black, amorphous thing. And you, for all your power, are not a man to him, but a God, a force…." (93)

“Power doesn’t have to show off. Power is confident, self-assuring, self-starting and self-stopping, self-warming, and self-justifying. When you have it, you know it…. It’s a nasty deal and I don’t always like it myself. But you listen to me: I didn’t make it, and I know that I can’t change it. But I’ve made my place in it, and I’ll have every Negro in the country hanging on tree limbs by morning if it means staying where I am." (140-141)

“[F]or God’s sake, learn to look beneath the surface…. And remember, you don’t have to be a complete fool in order to succeed. Play the game, but don’t believe in it—that much you owe yourself…. Play the game, but play it your own way—part of the time at least. Play the game, but raise the ante….Learn how it operates, learn how you operate….You might even beat the game…." (151-152)

“[T]he world is just as concrete, ornery, vile, and sublimely wonderful as before, only now I better understand my relation to it and it to me." (563)

Reference: Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. New York: Vintage, 1972


Free sample essay on The Invisible Man:
“Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This is true in The Invisible Man.Wells, one of the leading science fiction writers of his time has more than a handful of incredibly successful books accredited to his name. The book “The Invisible Man” is one of the crowning examples of XIXth century fantastic fiction. Even though it is an early work of science fiction I feel that it is much more than that. The nature of the plot of the story encourages one to come to the conclusion that there is more to this saga than science fiction. “The Invisible Man”, is a book about human nature and the intricacies of the thoughts, opinions and judgments intrinsically made in their minds when confronted with scenarios they fail to understand.

Wells wrote this marvelous story as something of a lesson about scientists playing God, and placing themselves above normal people. In his book, HG Wells ventures into the abstract concept of invisibility and the human emotions and reactions involved in the attainment and realization of this amazingly incomprehensible power. A once sensible scientist is engulfed by the power he feels when unseen, and this power mongering eventually leads into insanity. He carries a sociopath anger that explodes at random, causing as much damage to himself as to others. There is a pervading angst and cynicism running through the story that makes the science aspect of it mere background. According to me, in his book, Wells has taken us on a tour of the extremes which human emotions and feelings can reach when confronted with situations requiring immediate action. The story is filled with innuendoes as indications of how petty, vindictive and suspicious the lay man can get. Wells expresses this by elucidating accounts involving the lame and unintelligent villagers with the invisible man.

All the people Griffin encounters after he becomes invisible, right from the marching crowd of the Salvation Army to the people he comes across in Iping, start to panic and cause havoc and chaos uncontrollably with the intention of escaping the danger that might occur if they are targeted by the invisible man. Wells describes how people react when they look at peril and jeopardy at its face, how one behaves in “the moment of truth”. He gives instances of people like Mr. Heelas who break, and go to any extremes including befriending a close one as long as their safety is insured. He describes the strong character of people like the police constables who are ready to sacrifice their safety to ensure that of another. He depicts the innocence of a child by including in his book, the narrative of a girl who witnesses the Wickstead murder. Wells shows how unfaithful and greedy people can get by giving the instance of Mr. Marvel, and how he tries to steal the Invisible Man’s books after promising to work loyally for him when given a death threat. He instantiates the curiosity invoked in people when they see outlandish things by describing incidents involving the invisible man which portray the inquisitiveness of villagers like Mr. Henfrey, Mr. Hall, Mr. Fearenside, and Mr. Cuss. Of all the human feelings and emotions described in the book, the one Wells focuses on the most is the one a person would experience when granted absolute power. Wells portrays that once a person is granted a method by which he is convinced that he is uniquely more powerful than anyone else, he becomes insane and power-hungry and ultimately resorts to destruction and plunder in order to dominate everyone else. Wells gives Griffin the stereotyped character of a mad scientist who is out to prove his intelligence to the world by trying to become more powerful than anyone else. As in other stories this one too ends in the failure of the mad scientist, the death of the invisible man in this case.

Griffin says once to Dr. Kemp, “The more I thought it over, the more I realized Kemp what a helpful absurdity an invisible man was . . . Before I made this mad experiment I had dreamt of a thousand advantages. No doubt invisibility made it possible to get them, but it made it impossible to enjoy them once they are got.” Besides science and human nature, the book is also about learning a lesson from the mistakes of Griffin. The story has a moral that nobody can ever be fully satisfied with the attainment of absolute power. Well’s vision of the future is dire: even as man stumbles upon incredible new sciences, he will simply end up destroying others as he does himself.

As clearly described above, I feel that this book is more about humanity than about science and technology. The fact that the story involves the realization of a scientific discovery cannot merely be used as a reason for summing up the entire book as one about science and technology. The detailed description of the human character makes the scientific aspect of the book nothing more than a requirement for the completion of the story. Putting it in John Calvin Bachelors own words, “Yes, the story of Griffin is propped up with speculation about blood chemistry, but at its heart it is not a novel about optics and laboratory work gone wrong but rather about compassion and desire gone wrong.”.

Despite the fact that the book focuses mainly on human nature, it has a fair share of science in it too, and it satisfies the average science fiction reader. In the second half of the book, Wells introduces a new character, Dr. Kemp, a man of science. A man who is on the verge of making a scientific discovery that is going to alter his life and those of many others in some significant way or the other. It is this man who defeats the invisible man in achieving his goal by using his scientific mind to analyze and predict the invisible mans moves. Dr. Kemp sends out orders based on his scientific thinking that people should commute with hounds as the nose is to a dog as what the eyes are to a man, and the hound would be able to detect the presence of the invisible man. He also gives orders to lock up all food, as he understood that Griffins would ultimately feel hungry again and would some out in search of food. Wells designs the book so that Dr. Kemp being a man of science realizes that invisibility is not something unique in living organism’s, by recalling how most organisms in the sea are invisible and not visible.

It is here in the book where science and its implications start being used. When the invisible man comes across Kemp by coincidence, he narrates to Kemp the story of how he attained invisibility. In this part of the book, Wells makes Griffin describe the concept of visibility and explain in detail, the phenomenon of reflection and refraction that take place in everyday life. He also mentions how the movement of light and hence visibility can be altered by changing the refractive index: the amount by which light changes direction when passing through bodies with different densities. He gives real life examples of light performing its tricks in front of our eyes, which occur in our day to day lives. Hence the style of the book takes a turn and it starts to sound like a science fiction due to the recurring use of scientific concepts. Griffin finally mentions that he had discovered a formula involving four dimensions using which he was able to understand how to complete the process of becoming invisible and by altering the refractive index of a body without altering any of its other properties. Griffin elucidates how he finally discovered how to make blood invisible, completing the requirement for the whole body not to be seen by a normal naked eye. Griffin describes how he verified his discovery by experimenting on the landlady’s cat and a piece of cloth. We can see that Wells takes minute details involving science into consideration, as he explained how Griffin encountered a slight hitch in his experiment because the nails and the Tapetum of the cat’s eye did not become invisible. This demonstrates the aspects of a good science fiction author. Even later on when Griffin describes how he felt when he ventured on the streets for the first time after he became invisible, Wells did not forget to take specific minute details into consideration, which a non-science fiction author would have otherwise overlooked, for example, dust sticking on to Griffins body, rain outlining the shape of his body and the fact that he would leave footmarks on the ground if his feet were dirty.

Hence, we can see that the book is not entirely about human nature and has quite a few instances of science and technology in it. Therefore, the book can be categorized as a science fiction, as it evokes interest in the reader due to the fact that it contains enough material to appease his appetite for science fiction.

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