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Word Count: 1,214
While the civil war ended one form of slavery in America another system of oppression was ready to take its place In Ralph Ellisons acclaimed novel Invisible Man a young black nameless narrator struggles through a series of hard-won lessons as he makes his journey from the Deep South to Harlem New York from naivet to disenchantment from illusion to insight Like most of us he stumbles down the path of identity adopting several along the way in an attempt to solve his relationship with a hostile prejudiced American society Testament to the narrators various identities is the symbol of his briefcase which he receives as a prize after the disturbing Battle Royal and proceeds to carry until the end when he is in the coal bin and truly an invisible man Its contents -his high school diploma representing his southern black identity the recommendation letters representing his college identity the anonymous letter and the slip of paper with his brotherhood name representing his brotherhood leadership identity Cliftons paper doll symbolizing his disillusionment with the brotherhoods ideals and finally the shattered pieces of Marys bank perhaps signifying his identity in the context of white America -each an identity others dictated by others not developed by himself While in the cellar he creates torches out of these objects as though lighting his past on fire using his history to guide him out of the hole and out of illusion The beginning is a nightmare A young eager Negro boy valedictorian of his high school class believes he is to deliver a speech to a group of white benefactors Instead he finds himself together with several other Negroes in a Battle Royal a disgusting free-for all in which blindfolded and barebacked like savages the boys are instructed to beat each other After the battle the narrator is called upon to make his speech his mouth full of blood and his head spinning from the blows
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