Daves, Delmer, dir. Dark Passage. Perf.
Humphrey Bogart, and Lauren Bacall. Warner Bros. Pictures, 1947. DVD.
Taking into consideration the themes of
identity in Invisible Man, I believe that reading the novel in the
context of the film will be an interesting look at identity and invisibility,
real, or perceived in the novel. Using the medium of film to analyze literature
will be a unique and interesting exploration of identity in Ellison’s
protagonist, both before and after his “invisibility”.
Duncan, Garrett Albert. "Identity and Race in the United States."
Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History. Ed. Colin A.
Palmer. 2nd ed. Vol. 3. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2006. 1087-1092. Gale
Virtual Reference Library. Web. 3 Apr. 2012.
I plan to use this article as a base definition and source of African
American Identity in the United States, so as to more fluidly discuss my views
in relation to the novel.
Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. New York: Random House, Inc., 1995.
Invisible Man will be the main text
of analysis in the paper. Using secondary texts, I will attempt to examine
identity and invisibility, in conjunction with aggression (see below), and what
that means for the narrative and also what the reader can glean from this
reading of the novel.
Knowles, Caroline. “Race, Identities and Lives”. The
Sociological Review, 47: 110–135. 1999.
I plan to use Knowles analysis of race
identity in conjunction with Duncan’s identity definition in order to explore
the theme of identity in Ellison’s novel.
Wilson, E. O. On Human Nature. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press,
I plan to use a close reading of Wilson’s
chapter on aggression to color my observations and arguments on identity and
what role one’s level or type of aggression has to do with one’s identity.
I plan to explore the nature of aggression throughout
Ellison’s novel in relation to the protagonist’s views about his identity. That
is to say, how does the protagonist’s view about his identity affect his type
or level of aggression? How do his thoughts and feelings toward people, both
African American and Caucasian affect his aggression and his identity? How is
this connected to his view of himself as invisible and how has his self-imposed
label of “invisible” affected his identity and aggression. In addition, other
character’s (most notably Dr. Bledsoe) types of aggression will be mentioned
and lightly analyzed as a point of reference and comparison to the protagonist’s.
Because Ellison titles his book Invisible Man, it is important to
analyze just how his character exhibits this title qualifier. It is necessary
to endeavor to understand how the themes of invisibility and identity
intertwine to form a complicated character and how aggression plays a part in
“Aggression does not resemble a fluid that
continuously builds pressure against the walls of its containers, nor is it
like a set of active ingredients poured into an empty vessel. It is more
accurately compared to a preexisting mix of chemicals ready to be transformed
by specific catalysts that are added, heated, and stirred at some later time” (Wilson
There is a notion of confusion and
frustration associated with the struggles of identification or
misidentification that run deep in Ellison’s novel. This confusion and
frustration leads to unpredictable reactions. I will use the above passage of
Wilson supported by other such passages to connect aggression to the process of
finding one’s identity. As Wilson propounds here, aggression cannot be
predicted, but rather, once aggravated, can explode in many different ways.
Discussing identity in Invisible Man is
obvious, but important in our understanding of the novel as a whole. I hope
that by exploring the theme along with aggression and alongside the film Dark Passage, I can bring a fresh
reading to the theme of identity and invisibility in Ellison’s narrative. Even
more, I hope to distinguish between identity and invisibility: are these one in
the same? Are they mutually exclusive? I believe that looking at the book in
this way can lead to an interesting discussion concerning human nature.