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I am Invisible

I am Invisible

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Published by Emily Gatlin
This is an essay for an English literature class.
This is an essay for an English literature class.

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Published by: Emily Gatlin on Feb 26, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial No-derivs


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Emily A. Gatlin 1Dr. Nathanial PrestonEnglish 2321 December 2008Do You See Me?On November 4, 2008, the United States of America shocked the worldby electing Barack Obama to serve as President for the next four-years.Orlando Patterson, a sociology professor at the Harvard University inCambridge, Massachusetts writes in the
New York Times,
“This was a vision
that terrified as much as it fascinated the conservative men who were often
amazed at what they had signed on to in 1787: a revolutionary „charter of power granted by liberty‟… So they promptly ensured that it would only
very slowly threaten the hegemony of white men” (Patterson: “An EternalRevolution”). Patterson points out the obvious— 
it took us two-hundred-yearsto recognize a biracial man as competent to run our nation. Still, thephenomenon that a biracial man is president-elect demonstrates the trueprogress from the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Living in the UnitedStates of America in 2008 provides a backdrop of progression
a time unlikeany other on the North American continent.
 The founding fathers envisioned a nation built upon the ideals of innovation and individuality. They pictured America as the land of possibility
the continent that allowed a true meritocracy to exist. Aschildren growing-
up in America, we learn to “never give up,” “keep dreaming,”
and with hard work, anything is possible. However, we grow-up in an
However, this is in complete ignorance of the potential prehistoric Native Americancivilizations that preceded European contact. By this statement, I only mean that within thehistory of the United States that begins with English colonization.
Gatlin |
 environment filled with ignorant hatred and racial injustice. Early in life,the silent, but understood hegemonic forces tell us that the wealthy areinherently better than the imp
overished because clearly, they “did not workas hard.” We understand that the pigment of skin color displays significancetoward someone‟s moral character. We immediately chastise and ridicule
those that stand out for being different, being unique, and being aninnovative individual. Despite everything, we never question it. AlthoughRalph Ellison wrote his novel,
Invisible Man
in 1952, many concepts withinhis novel remain an integral aspect of the United States today. Ellisonprovides a realistic depiction of the dangers and the moral consequences thatan apathetically ignorant society produces by contently settling on the statusquo and losing individuality in a mass of anonymity. Richard Ellison
expands, “You ache with the need to convince yoursel
f that do exist in the
real world, that you‟re part of all the sound and anguish, and you strike outwith your fists, you curse, and you swear to make them recognize you”
(Ellison 2298). Hence
, Ellison demonstrates that the life as an “invisible” man
is not only a lonely existence, but a potentially dangerous and empty one aswell
this is the life of the modern silent complicit American individual.
Ellison explains in the closing lines society‟s desire “to keep this nigger
running” as a description of 
the endless pursuit of African-Americans toachieve racial equality by obediently following the rules (Ellison 2314).Thus, in an excerpt from
Invisible Man,
Ralph Ellison clearly demonstrateshow the hypocrisy within American society, founded upon the virtues of individuality, functions due to the mass conformity governed by the desire
Gatlin |
 for invisibility that masks the dangers behind its
anonymous silentcomplicity.The concept of existence as invisible is an ideal for many of us withinAmerican culture. New York City possesses millions of nameless, facelesspeople within the masses bustling around as to the next activity or businessmeeting. However, few of us rarely stop to consider the possible lonelinessbehind the zoned out stare complete with the iPod® earphones to deter anypossible conversation among strangers along the way to work. At work orschool, many of us are shut away alone within a cubicle, staring into thedepths of computer monitor as if it contains the deeper meaning behind ourexistence. As a student at the University of Tennessee, I immerse myself in
The Daily Beacon
and rarely actually attempt to converse with myclassmates around me. I silently slink in my seat, hoping for the blessing of absolute anonymity without realizing that I am guiltily disallowingresponsibility as a student to be an engaged discussion participant. In theexcerpt from
Invisible Man,
Ralph Ellison grabs attention by immediatelyproclaiming in the opening lines of the prologue of 
Invisible Man
, “I am an
invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of our Hollywood-
movie ectoplasms…I am invisible, understand,simply because people refuse to see me…When they approach me they see only
my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination
everything and anything, except me” (Ellison 2298). Within these lines, the
protagonist expresses how he passes through life unnoticed, unheard, andunseen
the envy of every urban dweller or University student.

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