Copy and paste your SUPER-final draft of reading response #4 in the comment box below (use the version of your paper that . . .
. . . you revised AFTER visiting the writing center). This will be your FINAL participation point.
Don't forget that the reading response portfolio (due the last day of class, Monday, April 30), was worth 4 participation points.
I've enjoyed having you all in my course this semester. Good luck, have a happy summer vacation and keep me posted (here is fine) on what you are reading!
Posted by lhobbs at April 30, 2007 02:32 PM
Im comparing the theme in "Invisible Man" to "The Necklace". I decided to compare the ideology of sterotypes and how its a big problem for both characters in the stories. For example, in Invisible man he is sterotyped becasue he is black. However in the other story "The Necklace" Mathidale is worried about being sterotyped in a certain social class. Let me know if this is okay! Thanks
Posted by: Sheryll Daugherty at April 14, 2007 10:49 AM
The topic that I am doing is comparing the hero's journey between the invisible man and the bell jar. I chose this topic because I thought it would be pretty easy because they have so much in common. They are both in college trying to obtain a degree. They are both reaching a milestone in their life, which is what the books are about. They are both around the same age and are living during the same time period. They are also minorities of their time and are very ambitious individuals. These are the things that I will be discussing in my paper.
Posted by: Erin Rock at April 14, 2007 02:02 PM
Yes, you will probably want to focus on why the stereotyping of an economic class is negative or positive, whichever stance you take and use examples from the text to prove your point(s).
Posted by: Lee Hobbs at April 14, 2007 03:42 PM
Hi, Professor Hobbs,
For reading response 4, I decided to compare and contrast character between Invisible Man and Watership Down. I want to compare General Woundwort and Brother Jack in terms of personality, and leadership.
Posted by: Tatiana S. Mack at April 14, 2007 04:21 PM
For reading response # 4 i am going to be comparing and contrasting a character from Invisible Man and Young Goodman Brown. I am using The Narrator and Goodman Brown, by the type of character they are: Round and Dynamic, or Flat and Static, and also personality of the two~
Posted by: Brooke Decker at April 15, 2007 11:10 AM
The topic that i am doing is comparing and contrasting the historical and cultural context between The Bell Jar and The Invisible Man. I decided to choose this response because I thought it would be interesting in comparing the differences and similitaries between the lives of each of the characters from two distinct places: New York City and the South. I beleive the diversity and the culture from the location they are living has drastically changed the paths of their lives.
Posted by: April Hunsberger at April 15, 2007 03:06 PM
April 15, 2007
For reading response #4 I have chosen to write about a common symbol between Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak. I chose this topic because I felt that there was one symbol in particular that I wanted to discuss. The common symbol between the two that I will talk about for reading response #4 would be the prejudice and discrimination displayed towards both protagonist of each story.
April 15, 2007
For reading response #4 I have chosen to write about a common symbol between Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak. I chose this topic because I felt that there was one symbol in particular that I wanted to discuss. The common symbol between the two that I will talk about for reading response #4 would be the prejudice and discrimination displayed towards both protagonist of each story. I will be talking mainly about racial and religious discrimination, because it seemed that from reading the two stories, both men received these types more than others. Dawid was punished for being born a Jew, while the narrator in Invisible Man was discriminated against because of his skin color. Although there are many different types of discrimination, I feel that by narrowing it down to these two specific types it will help me to get my point across in the comparison of a common symbol between the two stories.
Note from Lee:
Much Better Lyndsay!
Posted by: Lyndsay Krall at April 15, 2007 04:05 PM
15 April 2007
For my last writing assignment I have chosen the topic of comparing and contrasting the character structural element from The Invisible Man and its narrator and from the Bell Jar, Esther Green wood. I plan to focus on how these two characters were young, naive and innocent and these factors affected the way they interacted in the new environment of NYC. I chose this topic since I noticed that as a result of their being so young and sheltered, they acted in rather stupid ways at times or were clueless about situations that they should have been well aware of at their ages. To set up my essay by writing about the comparable and contrastable elements of each idea as shown in the third approach in the course packet. Hopefully by showing how similar they are I can make an impact on how the stories are very comparable but still be able to include major differences they each posses that also made things a little bit different for each.
ENGL121.003 MWF 1145-1245
Posted by: Bettina Herold at April 15, 2007 05:15 PM
I'm planning on drawing some parallels between the politics and tactics of the militaristic Efrafans in Watership Down and the subversive Brotherhood in The Invisible man. They both use intimidation tactics against anyone in their ranks who dissents, and they are both a bit skewed in their philosophies. I thought it would be interesting to explore these two organizations and see what I could find.
Posted by: Justin Bleggi at April 15, 2007 05:46 PM
I chose topic #1: compare and contrast a common theme/idea in The Bell Jar and Invisible Man. I would like to take a look at the developmental process of two characters thoughts. Both the man from Invisivle Man and Esther from The Bell jar share a common journey that brings them up to speed on human nature. People are not who they appear to be and many have hidden agendas. I will present a few different examples from each book that show the two characters forming opinions and theories on human nature. The characters learn to look deeper into a person to find the real individual.
Posted by: Andy Hood at April 15, 2007 06:23 PM
Dr. Lee Hobbs,
I am doing topic #5 where I am comparing and contrasting historical and cultural context from Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man" and "The Necklace". For example, I am going to compare how Mathidale and the invisible man both live in the same social class.
Posted by: Lauren Wozniak at April 15, 2007 06:35 PM
My topic is number five and I am student number five. I will be comparing the Invisible Man with The Necklace by applying the critical approach of economic determinist/marxist. I will talk about the similarities of the times written in the both stories having to do with social injustices such as race and gender. I will do this by showing how both characters were suppressed and stuck living in working class situations.
Posted by: Erika G. at April 15, 2007 06:39 PM
I am comparing a message/lesson in the Invisible Man to The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak. I'm going to discuss the immortality that the protagonists in both books experienced, and how they were both stripped from their identities in similar ways. The message I want to discuss is that one person can make a difference, that both protagonists were being oppressed by others but they individually made much more of an impact in society. The narrator in the Invisible Man realized that he had completely lost his sense of self because he kept following others beliefs, but he decided that by making positive contributions to society independently he will no longer be invisible and he would still make a difference in society's beliefs on racism. Dawid Sierakowiak was completely stripped of his identity but his strong will and charasmatic personality still showed through in his journals. Dawid was unable to be an individual once he was oppressed by the Nazis, but his journals continue to teach readers today about the effects of racism and discrimination.
Posted by: Jen n at April 15, 2007 07:15 PM
I have chosen to compare and contrast a common symbol in the Invisible Man and The Bell Jar. The common symbol that I have chosen to compare and contrast is the use of headlines/song lyrics in the two novels. Both of these symbolize the lives of the main characters in the novel.
ENGL 121 003
Posted by: Katie Kovac at April 15, 2007 07:49 PM
The two stories that I will be doing is The Bell Jar and my approach will be a critical approach. I will be comparing and contrasting the two main characters. I also will be comparing the two characters life experiences.
Posted by: Melisa Parsons at April 15, 2007 07:58 PM
For my compare/contrast essay, I have chosen to pair Poe's "Masque of the Red Death" with Ellison's "Invisible Man". In particular, I am going to examine the symbolism in the short story and the novel. Since color seems to be a highly important focus in both works of literature, I have decided that my essay will focus on how Poe and Ellison use color to enhance their works as well as just what color is interpreted as for each. Since there is no specific character that is influenced by color in Poe's work, I am going to explore the symbolism of each of the different colors used in the different rooms. For Ellison, since the narrator mentions color--black and white-- constantly throughout the book, I will focus on those. What I find most interesting is that while Poe uses colors of the rainbow, Ellison uses black and white--the excess and absense of all color.
ENGL 121.003 MWF 11:45
Posted by: Erin K. at April 15, 2007 09:25 PM
For the fourth reading response I am going to compare and contrast the diference in settings of The necklace and the invisible man. I will compare the differences in a racially charged setting in invisible man to the much different setting in the 1800s in france. I will compare how the character in each respond to thier settings and how the settings influenced the characters. Any other ideas. Thanks.
Posted by: Greg Crossland at April 15, 2007 09:48 PM
I am comparing a common symbol in the Invisible Man and The Neckalce. I'm going to compare the Libery Paint Plant and how it delt with social caste and class and then how the actual necklace made Mathilde's social class and catse change as well.
Posted by: Lorin Gdula at April 15, 2007 10:36 PM
I am comparing the theme of invisibility in The Invisible Man and Young Goodman Brown. The narrator obviously refers to being invisible in The Invisible man, but in Young Goodman Brown, for example, I can argue that Goodman Brown was "invisible" towards the end of the story, when no-one came to his funeral.
Posted by: Rebecca Shenkle at April 15, 2007 11:01 PM
Dear Professor Hobbs,
I chose topic number one for my reading response number four. I will be discussing the settings of both The Bell Jar and The Invisible Man.
I will be focusing on similarities such as both taking place in New York City, while neither characters were originally from there. Also, I will be focusing on the people in the main characters surroundings, because they are both overwhelmed by people that are wealthier than they are.
The differences will include: in some instances the invisible man feels comfortable in his environment, while Esther does not even feel comfortable in her last setting in the hospital. Also, the people in Esther’s environment are helpful rather than harming, and the invisible man does not ever experience that.
Posted by: Jaime Hersh at April 15, 2007 11:54 PM
I am describing a common theme, segregation, between "The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak" and "The Invisible Man". I will narrow the topic down by discussing how people react to being segregated. Dawid was in a group to support the Jews in the ghetto and The narrator in "The Invisible Man" joins the brotherhood to create equality between the black and white populations.
Posted by: Stephanie Vrabel at April 16, 2007 12:22 AM
My topic for reading response number four is student number two of the second topic. My topic is about the setting of The Invisible Man and The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak. The structural element for this paper is to compare and constant the two novels settings. I will probably focus my paper on how the two main characters are both very intelligent and always willing to increase their own knowledge. I will also compare how both men experienced segregation in their lives of hardships.
Posted by: Shayne Schmidt at April 16, 2007 12:29 AM
This doesn't sound too much like setting to me.
Go back and re-read the parts in the book about setting so that you are sure you have a good understanding of the concept.
Then, try tweaking your proposal to reflect a common denominator in the setting of both works that you can compare and contrast.
City? Country? Outer-space? England? Twentieth century? Wartime? Peacetime?
Do you see where I'm going? Less to do with the characters' personalities and more to do with the narratives' settings.
The part about segregation as a setting is a good start.
Try again and repost on the English blog!
Posted by: Lee Hobbs at April 16, 2007 12:40 AM
I'm comparing and contrasting the historical/cultural context in the Invisible Man and The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak. I chose this topic because I think it would be interesting to go over the similarities and differences of both these different time periods that are set in different places.
Posted by: Kristin Dudra at April 16, 2007 12:53 AM
My topic is comparing and contrasting the necklace to the Invisible Man. I plan on doing this by using the critical approach by taking details from each story that can be compared critically and talking about the differences. I havent decided exactly how I am going to write it because the Necklace is a very short story compared to the novel of the Invisible Man, but more thought and drafting will help me.
Posted by: Tina W at April 16, 2007 01:02 AM
Dear Professor Hobbs,
I will be comparing the themes of The Invisible Man to those of Watership down. The overlying themes of both books seemed to be the structures of society, the need for change, and individuals who do not fit the "norms".
Posted by: Erika Knox at April 16, 2007 09:53 AM
My reading response number four is on topic number one on the sign up sheet. I am comparing and contrasting a message or lesson from The Bell Jar to The Invisible Man.
The message that I am comparing in the two books is that the man in the bell jar is black and he talks all about racism and how he is treated with disrespect. The woman in the Bell Jar is a little crazy and she writes about how is treated. I’m going to compare how they both felt as if they were different from everyone and how they were treated.
Posted by: Amber Dunmire at April 16, 2007 09:53 AM
For Reader's Response #4, my topic #6 is the historical/cultural context of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death" and Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man". With this topic, I would like to compare Poe's short story that was involved with his life growing up to the Invisible Man's story. (Once I find prove) For the contrast of these two stories, I would like to share the "disease" in both of them. In Poe's story, the Red Death is a disease that deals with Blood and in Ellison's story, the disease is dealing with racism.
Please let me know if this is good for my paper. Thank you and see you in class!
Posted by: Jenny Troutman at April 16, 2007 10:28 AM
I plan to use a parallel between the lives of both characters. I will concentrate on some differences in the peasant classes in different societies. I plan to conclude with by showing how their respective journey's were post modern for their times.
Posted by: thomas nolf at April 16, 2007 10:42 AM
The two works of literature that I am going to to compare and contrast are THe invisible man and The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak. In the course pack the assignment for the fourth reading response is topic #2 about character. I want to compare and contrast the main characters in both works. The main focus of my paper will be the struggle that both of these characters under went.
Posted by: Carlos R. Gonzalez at April 16, 2007 11:04 AM
Topic for Reading Response #4
My topic for reading response number four is student number two of the second topic. My topic is about the setting of The Invisible Man and The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak. The structural element for this paper is to compare and constant the two novels settings. I will probably focus my paper on how the settings of the two main characters of each novel impact their environment of living and learning. I will also compare and give descriptions of how both men experienced segregation in the settings they where living in.
Posted by: Shayne Schmidt at April 16, 2007 02:21 PM
Enter your proposals for reading response #4 on Ralph Ellison's Invisible man here. Remember to be specific. What other work of literature will you be using? What characters/topics/themes/theory/etc. will you be using as your "binder" to compare and contrast the two? You haven't written the paper yet, obviously, but what direction do you think you'll be going-what are your ideas? If you are for, example, comparing the theme of friendship in "Star Wars" and "Lord of the Rings" what aspect of friendship can you focus on, rather than just generalizing "friendship"? For instance, friendship can backfire, or friendship can't be bought with money, etc.
You don't have to write a lot, just enough to give me an idea of what your initial thoughts on the paper will be.
*NOTE* The deadline for the assignment about paper proposals has now passed. Comments are no longer being accepted for that particular assignment.
See NEW Assignment instructions about final papers above and responses to that assignment below
Posted by: Lee at April 16, 2007 03:45 PM
Instructor Lee Hobbs
English 121.003 Humanities Literature
23 April 2007
Young Goodman Brown compared to the Invisible Man: Similarities and Differences
Over the past semester, the class has read several novels and short stories. The most recent novel the class read was the Invisible Man written by Ralph Ellison and earlier in the semester, the class read Young Goodman Brown written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I am going to look at the type of character and the personalities of each by comparing and contrasting. The characters have similarities and differences between them. I am going to focus on the narrator from Invisible Man and Goodman Brown from Young Goodman Brown. “Characters can each have different types within a story. There can be round and dynamic, flat and static, and stock characters” (Roberts 67-69).
Round characters are the center of attention; the narrator gives us enough information about them that we know they are true to life, three-dimensional, life like, and original (Roberts 68). Round Characters are also considered dynamic characters. Dynamic means they can recognize and adjust to different circumstances (Roberts 68). Since they play major roles, they are referred to as the protagonists. A protagonist is the good character, or the first actor and an antagonist is the opposing actor, or the bad character (Roberts 68). Flat characters are simple, minor, and one-dimensional; they usually have no more than one role throughout the story, ending the same place they started, and that is why they are said to be static (Roberts 68). Lastly, the term stock character is commonly applied to describe characters in repeating situations, and is usually flat characters (Roberts 69).
The narrator of Invisible Man and Goodman Brown has some similarities and differences between them. Goodman Brown and the narrator in Invisible Man are both main characters and have major roles in the stories that they are apart of. The narrator in the Invisible Man is considered a round character because he is the main character, and the reader is given enough information about him that he is life like. The narrator in Invisible Man is also dynamic because he recognizes what is going on and how people do not even notice he is present. Goodman Brown is similar to the narrator in a sense that he is also round and dynamic. They are both the protagonist throughout the stories, and the attention is focused on them the entire time.
There are also some differences between the two characters; the narrator in Invisible Man is a black male in the 1930’s in the United States of America, and Goodman Brown is a white male in the 1600’s from Salem. Their personalities are indeed very different as well. The narrator in Invisible Man is going through a time where he experiences racism and prejudice. He considers himself invisible in the white society; people would walk by him but never acknowledge him as a human being. Due to these circumstances, his personality is shy and hidden, he does not really say much to other individuals but he lets his thoughts and feelings uncover. At the end of the story, he sort of come out of his shell, and decides that he is going to come out from hiding and finally face the world.
Goodman Brown’s personality differs from the narrator in some ways. Goodman Brown has a kind and good personality. Looking just at Goodman Brown’s name, the word good is the beginning of his name. A quote from the story relates to Goodman Brown’s personality and shows that he is a good caring man, “With heaven above, and Faith below, I will stand firm against the devil,” stated Goodman Brown (Roberts 226). After reading this quote, I noticed that Goodman Brown would not let anyone or anything stop him as long as he has heaven and his wife Faith. Goodman Brown is outspoken, and he is noticed in his society unlike the narrator in Invisible Man.
Overall, Goodman Brown and the narrator are the same in some ways but different in more ways. Despite their differences they are both very unique characters and beneficial to the roles that they play in each story. They both serve a purpose in one way or another.
Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. 1952. 2nd Edition. Vintage, 1995.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “Young Goodman Brown.” RPD by Roberts, Edgar V. Writing about
Literature. Brief 11th edition. Saddle River, New Jersey, 2006
Roberts, Edgar V. “Character.” Writing about Literature. Brief 11th edition. Saddle River, New
Until next class
Posted by: Brooke Decker at April 30, 2007 10:40 AM
Sheryll A. Daugherty
Instructor Lee Hobbs
English Humanities Literature 121. 003
29 March 2007
Inequalities of Social Hierarchy found in Invisible Man and “The Necklace”
The stereotypes within an economic class are evident in the novel Invisible Man and the short story “The Necklace”. The main characters in both stories were deviant according to their society’s racial and economic expectations. Individuals perceive others and carry a stigma about the person’s character and ability to perform in society, while living in an oppressed society of discrimination based on either the standards of wealth or race. Both characters experience events in their lives that signify these un-just inequalities. Although both have the desire to achieve the American dream, they are blocked because of not being able to conform to their society’s normative prospect of a “perfect America”
“The Necklace” exemplifies the theme or message of stereotypes based on economic class. In the story, Mathidle stereotypes herself because she suffers from cheap belongings and has no luxuries. “She had no decent dresses, no jewels, nothing”(Maupassant 6). She wants to achieve the American dream of living a wealthy lifestyle with exotic possessions. This is hard to accomplish because during the 1800s, women had no independence. Their only entry into high class society was through marriage. Mathidle married an insignificant clerk, which made her unable to achieve entry into high class society.
As a result, when she gets the invitation to attend a party, she feels threatened because she does not want anyone else to perceive her lack of valuable possessions. However, she borrows a pearl necklace from a close friend, which had great symbolic meaning in the stories theme. One way writers exemplify important ideologies of theme is the use of symbolic attachments of objects or animals, which correlate to a character or their life. In Maupassant’s short story, the necklace was symbolic of wealth and importance. The meaning and importance of the necklace is noticeable. For example, a line from the story states, "Suddenly she found a superb diamond necklace in a black satin box, and her heart throbbed with desire for it” (Maupassant 8). Mathidle wanted others to recognize her as wealthy, although she could only dream of a life as such. Without the necklace, she felt deviant of society’s expectations and though it looked down upon for her low economic standing.
The novel Invisible Man also represents the theme of discrimination and stereotypes. The narrator is ridiculed and judged due to his race, which comes through in his low economic standing. After his high school graduation, he is awarded a scholarship to attend a segregated college for blacks. He attends college but falls into trouble with the Dean, Dr. Bledstone. After being expelled, he is forced to travel to New York in order to seek employment in order to make enough money for tuition. The Dean of the college, writes the narrator letters of recommendation so the narrator can seek job opportunities in New York. The narrator is shocked to learn that the letters are a hoax to get him out of the university (Ellison 167). Being a black man in a white man’s world is a burden, and the narrator is looked upon as an outsider to society’s normative expectations. His low economic status is caused by the color of his skin. This creates a strong will for economic survival, because he no longer has the help of Dr. Bledstone, who betrayed his trust. The narrator wants to achieve the “American Dream” of life, liberty, and equality. However, the norms, of society do not create equality for all mankind. This is a reason that the narrator fails to conform in a white man’s world, fulfilling his grandfather’s deathbed wish.
The stereotypes are easily noticed in the stories “The Necklace” and Invisible Man. Mathidile suffered the discrimination and burden of marrying into a low economic standing, as well as being female during the1800s, when women had no social or political power. She wished to achieve wealth, but her place in society economically and socially forbids her to achieve a higher social rank. The narrator in Invisible Man also suffers discrimination, but based upon his race, which prevents him from achieving a place in higher society. The reason Mathidle and the narrator are placed in a low class society deals with gender and ethnicity, which their society views negatively, because it does not conform to their expectations.
Posted by: Sheryll Daugherty at April 30, 2007 10:41 AM
Instructor Lee Hobbs
English 121.003 Humanities Literature
30 April 2007
Invisibility in Invisible Man and Young Goodman Brown
"I am an invisible man…I am invisible, understand, simply because
people refuse to see me" (Ellison 3). The narrator of Invisible Man was
convinced that he was "invisible". This theme of invisibility is
recognizable in another story we read in this class, called Young Goodman
Brown. The difference between these two stories is that the narrator in
Invisible Man was "invisible" for most of his life, but the characters in
Young Goodman Brown were only "invisible" for a short time.
Similar to the narrator in Invisible Man, I can see the theme of
invisibility in Young Goodman Brown as well, especially towards the end of
the story, when the main character returned home from his journey. The
author, Nathanial Hawthorne writes, "…a godly procession, besides neighbors
not a few, they carved no hopeful verse upon his tombstone; for his dying
hour was gloom" (Hawthorne 230). In a way, after Goodman Brown came back
from that journey, he was "invisible" to the other townspeople. The story
says that the townspeople did not see him in church anymore, and that when
he was sleeping at night, often he would "…[shrink] from the bosom of
Faith" (230). This is yet another example of how Goodman Brown became more
"invisible" towards the end of the story.
There is another character in Young Goodman Brown that I can also see
the theme of invisibility in. This is Goodman Brown's wife, Faith.
Throughout the whole story, her name is mentioned, but not much is actually
said about her character. At some points in the story, the reader felt as
if Faith was not even really a person at all. An example of this is when
Goodman Brown was in the forest, and he was yelling: "Faith! Faith" (227).
I was not sure at this point whether Goodman Brown was talking about his
wife, Faith, or his own faith. Therefore, at times, I was not even sure if
Faith was a real person or not. At another point in the story, Goodman
treated his wife as if she were invisible. As he was coming back to Salem
village: "…and bursting into such joy at the sight of him that she skipt
along the street, and almost kissed her husband before the whole village.
But Goodman Brown looked sternly and sadly into her face, and passed on
without a greeting" (230). This part of the story was sad because Faith
was so happy to see her husband. She was extremely worried about him while
he was away, but Goodman did not seem equally as happy to see his wife and
hardly even acknowledged her presence.
Along with Young Goodman Brown, Invisible Man also had the theme of
invisibility. The narrator claimed that he was invisible because he thought
that people did not see him for who he actually was. He also talked about
being "invisible" because the other people around him were "blind," and
therefore could not see him. In the beginning of the story, the narrator
described a time he almost killed a man. He says, "…I got out my knife and
prepared to slit his throat…when it occurred to me that the man had not
seen me; actually that he, as far as he knew, was in the midst of a walking
nightmare!" (Ellison 4). This excerpt shows that the narrator actually was
"invisible" to some people.
Another example that shows that proves that the narrator was
"invisible" is that fact that he was able to steal electrical power from
the electric company and not have them find out who was stealing power. He
was also able to get away with not paying the rent, without his landlord
knowing about it, and he stated, "Now, aware of my invisibility, I live
rent-free in a building rented strictly to whites, in a section of the
basement that was shut off and forgotten during the nineteenth century…"
(6). By the end of the novel, the narrator realized that perhaps he had
been invisible too long, and he says, "I've overstayed my hibernation,
since there's a possibility that even an invisible man has a socially
responsible role to play" (581).
The narrator in Invisible Man claimed that he was invisible by the
ways in which other people treated him. He thought that perhaps he was
invisible because they were blind. The characters in Young Goodman Brown
however, were "invisible" for a short period of time, usually because that
was how the author wanted to portray them at that point in the story. I
think it is important to recognize this theme of invisibility in both these
stories. The authors of these stories wanted their characters to seem
"invisible" perhaps because their character was not that important to the
story. One example of this would be Faith's character in Young Goodman
Brown. These authors also may have also wanted their characters to be
"invisible" to prove that they were detached from reality. Lastly, I think
Nathanial Hawthorne and Ralph Ellison made their characters "invisible"
because it played an important role in their characters' development.
Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. Vintage Books: New York, 1980.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Young Goodman Brown. Rpt. in Writing About
Literature, by Edgar V. Roberts. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall,
Posted by: Rebecca Shenkle at April 30, 2007 12:44 PM
Erika L. Gillenberger
Instructor Lee Hobbs
ENGL 121.003 Humanities Literature
23 April 2007
The economic determinist/Marxist critical approach can be seen in both The Necklace and Invisible Man. Both of these works of literature have very different story lines that eventually join together when it comes to the inequalities and struggles of the times. These two writings of literature are proletarian. In these two stories there is an emphasis on the main characters being members of lower class society. They both face being poor, oppressed, and find themselves living their lives in endless drudgery and misery. When they attempt to rise above their disadvantages, they find themselves in renewed suppression. Marxism helps these two writers to emphasize the inequalities of society. It lets the readers know of the statues of the characters in society. This helps the readers to see the truths in the world of inequalities by showing how the characters in these stories faced waking up to a world of economic struggles do to ones’ race and/or gender.
Social injustice comes in many forms. In the Invisible Man the narrator deals with the social injustice and inequalities of being a man of African descent in a white mans world. Every corner the narrator would turn he was forced to rise above his struggles and suppressions that were covered by the bright white light of racism. This white light of racism would blind him and renew his suppression repeatedly. The narrator found himself surrounded by racism. In these times everything was seen in black and white and was always segregated never united. Slogans even portrayed the racial behaviors of the times by saying, “Keep America Pure with Liberty Paints” (196). Even though the narrator did not want to conform to the racial and injustice in his society, he could not escape it for he was born of African descent, which he could not change.
Social injustice and inequalities in The Necklace were not due to race but gender. Women were often suppressed during the times that Mathilde’s story took place. When it came to gender there were set standards that existed between men and women. Women often had no say when it came to government, political factors, or making any decisions that were of any real importance. Women were seen almost as material things and their only purpose was to procreate. If women were not born into a family of higher social class then they often were stuck living in a life of lower class poverty. The only way out of these inequalities was by marrying into a family that came from wealth. If the woman was unable to marry into an upper class family, then she was left in suppression and unable to rise out of lower class. Mathilde struggled with the fact that, “she had no dowry, no prospects, no way of getting known, courted, loved, married by a rich and distinguished man” (5). She has no refuge from a life of hopelessness and poverty.
Economic determinist/Marxist critical approach is evident in The Necklace and the Invisible Man. Although the inequalities between the narrators in the Invisible Man are different from the inequalities of Mathilde in The Necklace, both characters were faced with the fact of being suppressed. Their struggles to rise above the inequalities of their time will never change. Even today society, racial, and gender inequalities are evident and will probably continue on throughout the time of history.
Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. 1952. 2nd Ed. Vintage, 1995.
Roberts, Edgar V. “The Necklace”. Writing about Literature. by Roberts, Edgar V. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc., 2006
Posted by: Erika G. at April 30, 2007 12:59 PM
Instructor Lee Hobbs
22 April 2007
Invisible Man and The Bell Jar: True Reality
Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison and The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath have similar themes and share many of the same characteristics. Both books follow a period in the life of a minority around the 1950s. The main character in each book is struggling to establish themselves as an individual in this complex world. Through this struggle, they discover how naïve they have been. They learn this through a series of lies, deception, and wrong turns. Esther, from The Bell Jar, and the man from Invisible Man, both share a common journey that brings them up to speed on human nature. People are not always who they appear to be, and many have hidden agendas. One must look deeper to see the true individual. The man in Invisible Man claims now to be invisible due to “a matter of construction of people’s inner eyes, those eyes with which they look through their physical eyes upon reality” (Ellison 7).
People are not always who they appear to be. Unfortunately, experience is the best opportunity to learn facts like these. Esther and the invisible man are forced to learn this directly rather than from incidental learning. In need of additional money for college, the invisible man seeks work opportunities in New York City. The man asks Dr. Bledsoe, a professor whom he has gotten to know, to write him formal recommendation letters to help him get a job. Dr. Bledsoe agrees, but tells the man not to open the letters so it will not decrease the value of them. After being turned down harshly a few times, the man finally learns from one of the employers that the recommendation letter claims he is unqualified and unfit for the job (Ellison 167,168). The man is left expectedly angry, but also with an emotional scar that decreases his ability to trust others.
Esther learns this lesson through some unfortunate news concerning her former childhood boyfriend, Buddy Willard. Buddy Willard is somebody Esther has developed a lot of trust in. Esther would look to Buddy for advice, and even as somebody to replicate in some circumstances. After the two had decided to go separate ways, for the time being, Esther learns that Buddy had been cheating on her during their relationship (Plath 70). Of course, Esther is heart broken from this news, and is left with a scar similar to the invisible man. This is an imaginary scar that will affect Esther’s ability to trust others for the rest of her life.
Esther is forced to learn that human nature favors one’s self through another unfortunate situation with a man. After learning that her long time boyfriend, Buddy Willard, had been cheating on her, Esther was urgent to lose her virginity (Plath 78). While being treated at a hospital, she meets a man on the library steps at Widener named Irwin. She found him to be a nice man (Plath 225). Irwin, however, appears to be nice, but secretly has a hidden agenda. Irwin leaves Esther feeling alone and confused after taking her virginity. Fortunately, Joan was there to help Esther when she returned from Irwin’s place (Plath 229-233). Esther decided she never wants to talk to him again and just takes what she can from the situation. It is better to let it go; dwelling on the past will only have adverse affects.
The invisible man learns this during a time which he spent working for a Brotherhood (Ellison 400-403). The man was under the impression, as most others were that total equality is the main focus of the Brotherhood. Later, the man would learn that he was given a job simply to be used by his new found friends and colleagues. He was simply being used for his voice, and not for his thoughts. The Brotherhood wanted equality, but only to a certain extent. They campaigned for total equality, but they were mostly interested in personal gain.
Esther and the man both learn through harsh experiences that they were naïve before, and the world can be a cruel place. Sometimes though, the best way to learn is through experience. Each character now approaches the world in a different way. They now know that the world is complex and one must look a little bit deeper to find the truth.
Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. 1952. 2nd Ed. Vintage, 1995.
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. 1963. Pseudonym: Victoria Lucas. New York:
Posted by: Andy Hood at April 30, 2007 01:29 PM
Erin M. Rock
Instructor Lee Hobbs
ENGL 121.003 Humanities Literature
23 April 2007
The Hero’s Journey in The Bell Jar and Invisible Man
The dictionary defines journey as “a passage or progress from one stage to another” (Dictionary.com). This definition is very vague. If the journey is complex then these stages will take longer to accomplish. So many obstacles can arise that could make the journey nearly impossible. An old Chinese proverb states that “to get through the hardest journey we need take only one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping” (worldofquotes.com). This is easier said than done in some instances. Sometimes a journey can be so difficult that it seems easier to just give up. But the proverb gives excellent advice. It says to take a complicated task one step at a time. Don’t look forward and don’t look back.
In the novels The Bell Jar and Invisible Man, the main characters go through their own personal conquests. They are living during difficult times and both have their similarities and differences. Focusing on similarities, the main characters are both minorities, they are becoming adults, and there’s an element of survival in both stories. These things are important to focus on when discussing their personal conquests.
The time period in both of these novels is the 1950s. At this time America was run by rich, white men. If an individual did not hold this status, they were looked down upon and were treated differently. For Esther, the main character in The Bell Jar, times were tough. Because she was a woman, she was supposed to grow up, find a husband, and become a housewife. She didn’t want this life for herself. She wanted to become a writer or a professor and decided to go to college to live out this dream. When she is having her picture taken for the magazine’s photo shoot, she has to choose props that represent what she wants to be when she grows up. She chooses a paper rose to show what inspires her poems. Her friends chose things such as an ear of corn to show that they wanted to be a farmer’s wife (Plath 101). It was very unusual for women during this time to aspire to be something more than a housewife.
In the novel Invisible Man, the main character was also a minority. He was an African American and struggled to get through life with respect. He went through his life fighting for a place in a world full of white men. At the beginning of the book he got an opportunity to go to college (an all black college of course). Before he could do that he had to participate in a “battle royal”. He was put up against other black men in a boxing ring. All of them were blindfolded. Putting all of their dignity aside, they fought each other for the amusement of the white men watching. (Ellison 22).
The main characters lives’ involved the journey to become an adult. They were both around nineteen years old and still had not completely discovered themselves. There are people surrounding them who tried to tell them what they should and shouldn’t be. This made it even harder for them to accomplish their journeys. In the novel The Bell Jar, Esther especially struggled with this. In one aspect she wanted to fit in but she also wanted to be her own person. Her mother made it harder by trying to convince her to quit both school and the internship and focus on something like shorthand. If she would do that she could live a life as a housewife and mother. Eventually she allows her other to teach her shorthand but knows that she does not want a job that involves shorthand (Plath 121). She continued with her dream of becoming a writer.
In a similar situation, the main character of Invisible Man put forth great effort in order to live a better life. At the beginning of the story he was both literally and figuratively sheltered from the world. Eventually he decided to emerge and attempt to accomplish something in life. He did this by becoming a public speaker, going to college, and joining The Brotherhood. At the end of the novel he was back where he was in the beginning, underground. He stated that he must honor and remain true to himself and decided that he was ready to come out from his hiding.
In both instances the characters fought to survive in the world they were living in. But who and what they were fighting are different. In The Bell Jar, Esther was completely naïve to what was happening around her. When she found out that Buddy slept with another woman while they were dating, she attempted to lose her virginity, as if to prove something to him. This, among other things, caused Esther to spiral into a deep state of depression. Her fight for survival ended up being, in a sense, a fight against herself. She attempted to kill herself numerous times and failed. In the end, her depression eased and she no longer felt and urge to commit suicide, although she was quite aware that the feelings could return at any moment.
In the novel Invisible Man, the main character wanted to survive also, but in a different way from Esther. His survival was not a life or death situation, as Esther’s was. He was living in a world dominated by white men. He fought to move up in society and make something of himself so that he could survive. He had the opportunity to go to college and he was willing to do whatever it took to get there, even if it meant humiliating himself in the process. In the end, he found himself humbled and knew that he was a survivor in a fatal time.
Both characters went through many struggles in their lives. Many obstacles stood in their way of accomplishing their goals in life, such as being a minority and going through the process of growing up. They both fought for what they wanted and what they believed in. In the end, things worked out for the both of them.
Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 22 Apr. 2007. .">http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/feisty>.
Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. 1952. 2nd Ed. Vintage, 1995.
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. 1963. Pseudonym: Victoria Lucas. New York: Bantam. 1978
Worldofquotes.com. Roy Russo, Inc. 22 Apr. 2007. .
Posted by: Erin Rock at April 30, 2007 02:48 PM
Professor Lee Hobbs
Invisible Man and The Bell Jar: Rural vs. Urban
From reading The Invisible Man and The Bell Jar I have found that each book has a few similarities and differences based on the historical and cultural context of the novels. In Writing About Literature, it defines historical context as, “The historical times when a work was written, together with the intellectual and cultural ideas of this period. To study a work of literature in this perspective is to determine the degree to which the work spoke not only to people of its own times, but continues to speak to people of current times” (281).Likewise, I have chosen to compare and contrast the rural and urban environments from the past to the present. Additionally, I will also discuss their lifestyles and background on how the two characters were treated and how they dealt with the issue of survival based on the time and location in which they lived.
Based on The Invisible Man and The Bell Jar there are a few differences based on a rural and urban environment that I will compare, based on past events until now. In The Invisible Man the narrator goes from a rural to an urban area. Back in the 1930’s, down south, there was a great deal of segregation. African Americans were treated very poorly like animals. For example, the narrator in chapter one was instructed to take part in the “Battle of Royal,” which was a humiliation and source of entertainment to the whites. The narrator and other African Americas were forced into fighting in a boxing match where the white people taunted and tortured the African Americans with laughs and rude remarks (Ellison 21). However, in today’s society even in the south, segregation is illegal and it does not take part at all. Also, as a African American living in New York City in the 1930’s it was very common to stick out more because of the color of their skin. People viewed African Americans as animals and a disgrace to the human race. However, in an urban area such as New York, an African American man or a person having a pink Mohawk walking down the street, would not be judged any differently, because of the society we live in today . In The Bell Jar, the main character Esther is mentally unstable in a rural environment, which leads to her suicidal ways. In chapter 12, Doctor Gordon sends Esther to the hospital for a shock treatment (Sylvia 143). In today’s society, shock treatments are found out to be very harmful to the brain; due to a great amount of scientific investigation shock treatment is no longer used in today’s society.
Furthermore, there are a few similarities based off The Invisible Man and The Bell Jar. In both of the books each of the characters have the right to an education. In The Invisible Man the narrator is given the right to an education, only because he had to fight in the “Battle of Royale.” In The Bell Jar Esther was awarded a scholarship and an internship in New York City. Even in today’s society an education is given to any individual regardless of their race. Both of the characters were awarded scholarships, however they earned their scholarships differently.
Furthermore, from reading The Bell Jar and The Invisible Man I believe that society was extremely different back in 1920’s through 1940’s based off these two books. There was a great deal of segregation that took place in the rural and urban areas back in the early days. African Americans were degraded and used as a source of entertainment to the white people. However, they were given an education and scholarships based off of unmoral tasks that they were assigned to perform. Likewise, from The Bell Jar I have learned that technology has improved from the 1920’s till now. Due to the fact that scientist have learned the harmful effects of shock treatments.
Overall, I believe that America today has progressed a tremendous amount. From the readings I have also been able to identify how the historical context differs and relates to one another from the past to the present. Between the time period that these two books took place segregation has become illegal and technology has greatly improved. It is apparent that from the time the books were made America was beginning to improve scientific studies, education, technology, and equality among all people.
Roberts, Edgar, V. “Writing About a Work in its Historical, Intellectual, and Cultural Context. Writing About Literature. New Jersey: Pearson, 2006
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. 1971. New York: Perennial Classics, 1999.
Ellison, Ralph. The Invisible Man. Cleveland: Wiley Publishing, 2000.
Posted by: April Hunsberger at April 30, 2007 05:07 PM
Instructor Lee Hobbs
ENGL 121 Humanities Literature
25 April 2007
For reading response number four, I have chosen to compare and contrast a common symbol between Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak. In my opinion, I believe that there was one distinct symbol represented between the two stories. In this paper, I will be discussing how discrimination and prejudice were displayed towards both protagonists of each story.
There are many different types of discrimination. For example, there is gender discrimination, class discrimination, nationality discrimination, plus many more. However, from all of the different types, the two main ones which best portray Invisible Man and The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak would be racial and religious discrimination. It seemed that from reading the two stories, both men received these types more than others. Dawid was punished for being born a Jew, while the narrator in Invisible Man was discriminated against because of the color of his skin. Although there are many different types of discrimination, I feel that narrowing it down to these two specific types will help me to get my point across in the comparison of a common symbol between these two stories.
In the story Invisible Man, the narrator was racially discriminated against for being African American. He was treated unfairly and was not given the same opportunities in life as other white men his age. Although he was a very intelligent young man, people could not see beyond the fact that he was a man of color. It was a constant battle for the narrator, in which he fought so hard for what others were lucky enough to have been born with. For example, the narrator had delivered a speech on his graduation day. He had received a great amount of praise and was invited to give a speech at a gathering of the town’s leading white citizens. While attending this triumphant gathering, the narrator was told that the main purpose of delivering such a speech was that he would be receiving a scholarship for college. When he finally arrived, he along with nine other black young men, were led into a boxing ring where each of them received a pair of boxing gloves. The narrator stated “as we tried to leave we were stopped and ordered to get into the ring. There was nothing to do but what we were told” (Ellison, 21). All ten men were then blind-folded and forced to fight one another, for the battle royal had begun (Ellison, 21). It was like these men were viewed as a joke, as if they were animals and not human beings, and all because of their skin color.
In the story The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak, Dawid was religiously discriminated against for being born as a Jew. Unlike the narrator in Invisible Man, Dawid was not always faced with discrimination. The narrative of The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak transitions from a time of peace to a time of war. Dawid, along with the rest of his community were punished for believing in a certain religion. The community found themselves in a state of shock to find that something such as an invasion could actually happen to them. It was stated, “God, what’s going on! Panic, mass exodus, defeatism” (Sierakowiak, 34). Like the narrator in Invisible Man, Dawid and his family were treated very unfairly and were not given a fair chance at life. From reading the two stories, I feel that Dawid was faced with a much higher level of discrimination in comparison with the narrator in Invisible Man. Dawid was physically and mentally tortured as a result of religious discrimination.
In conclusion, I feel that both protagonists of each story had many similarities between the two. Both of these individuals were shunned for something that they had no control over. I feel that contrary to what many believe, discrimination is something that still exists in today’s world and contributes to many problems in today’s society. Discrimination is something that I think will unfortunately last a very long time, but that is only if we let it.
Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. Cleveland: Wiley Publishing, 2000.
Sierakowiak, Dawid. The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak. Ed. Alan Adelson. New York: Oxford
University Press, 1996.
Posted by: Lyndsay Krall at April 30, 2007 07:21 PM
Instructor Lee Hobbs
ENGL 121 Humanities Literature
18 April 2007
Two of A Kind Esther & Invisible Man
In the story The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath the protagonist’s name is Esther Greenwood, and in the story the Invisible Man, the protagonist is a male who is nameless throughout the story. In both of these stories the protagonists are faced with life altering struggles. These two characters are around the same age, and they both attend college in these stories. In many ways these two characters go through some of the same experiences , such as they both go to New York to better themselves , they both come from the country and travel to the city, and they both have trouble finding themselves and can not understand why they are unhappy with themselves. Furthermore the titles of these books can be symbolic to both of these protagonists’ lives.
Esther is a college student who is from New England; her dream is to become a famous journalist. She won a contest to become an intern with a fashion magazine (Plath 3). Her internship was in New York city. Esther is used to being the best at everything she did. All throughout school Esther received straight As. Esther determines her happiness on how well she is doing academically and how close she is to becoming a journalist. Esther’s life does not go as smoothly as she planned . I believe Esther set her goals in an unrealistic manner because she does not have any back up plans just in case her goals do not go as she had planned. Once her plans fail her , her life begins to make a change for the worse.
The protagonist in the story Invisible Man had a dream to some day attend college. He was also a bright student like Esther. Moreover this character won a contest that let him experience his dream. He won a scholarship to college by fighting in the battle royal( Ellison 21). The contest he won was very degrading and embarrassing because the people who asked him to fight were using him for their own entertainment. The protagonist agreed to fight because he felt like this was his only opportunity to attend college. Soon after attending college he was kicked out for a poor decision he made. Once he was kicked out of school, his plan was to go to New York to get a job so he could return back to school. To get a job in New York he needed a letter of recommendation, so he received one from Dr. Bledsoe who was a school official ( Ellison 99 ) Dr. Bledsoe was also the person who kicked him out of school.
In both stories these characters were given a taste of their dreams and afterwards their lives went downhill. Esther was told a career in journalism would be too much for her to handle after she broke out crying after a photo shoot. The character in Invisible Man was kicked out of school because Dr. Bledsoe felt like he was not for the college because he believed that the protagonist betrayed the school. His plan was to go to New York because he wanted to go back to school; he also did not want to tell his family because he felt like that would be shameful. Once he was in New York, he went to a job interview only to find out that Dr. Bledsoe wrote him a bad recommendation. This is when he started to lose hope when his plans A and B failed him. Esther’s life also went downhill after her plan did not work. After her boss told her she thought journalism was too much, she went back home . She decided she would attend a writing class, but she did not get accepted to the class. After her plan A and B did not work she started to give up on life. She stops grooming herself and becomes very depressed and isolates herself from people. The character in Invisible Man also isolates himself by living in the basement (Ellison 10). In both of these stories the characters isolate themselves from the rest of the world when things started to go bad for them in their lives.
Finally, both of these characters are faced with troublesome times throughout their lives. After their plans fail them they isolate themselves because they are unhappy with themselves The titles of both of these books can be symbolic to both of these characters’ lives. The protagonist in the Invisible Man felt as long as he was not able to go to school he was invisible to white people and felt like his education was his bell jar but without his education he could not survive. The Invisible Man title could be symbolic to Esther’s life because journalist is what she worked hard to become all her life and not becoming a journalist she felt unknown or invisible.
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar New York 1971
Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man 1980
Posted by: Melisa Parsons at May 1, 2007 11:58 AM
Instructor Lee Hobbs
ENGL 121.003 Humanities Literature
25 April 2007
Invisible Man and The Bell Jar: So Young Yet So Helpless
“What you don’t know can’t hurt you,” this often repeated cliché may not hold true for all situations. Sure there are many times when a person’s innocence or ignorance may protect them from the crimes and prejudices of today’s society, but in the fast paced lifestyle of America, naïve and good hearted people usually end up getting burned by the people they put their trust in. The narrator of the Invisible Man and Esther Greenwood, from The Bell Jar, are both examples of innocent, naïve young adults who move to New York City to be faced with the challenge of adapting to the harsh new social climate. These two protagonists share some similar, but also very different, experiences as they are pulled out of their sheltered life and forced into a city full of controversy and scandal. The characters have traits to compare and contrast such as their age, background, education and much more that affect their experiences in their unique ways.
Both the protagonists were young adults around the age of a typical college student (maybe 19 or 20 years old or so). Since the characters were both so young, they often did not have very much previous experience to know the practical street smarts necessary to get by in a new city. However, there is a difference in their approach about interacting with strangers as the Invisible Man narrator was often too quick to put his trust in people while Esther was very apprehensive to trust anyone even her own mother or trained professionals. For example, in Chapter 15 of The Bell Jar, Esther makes comments to herself while evaluating Doctor Nolan including, “I thought the doctors must all be in it together…” (189). With her skepticism and paranoia, Esther becomes unable to make correct judgments and since many of the situations with doctors are new to her, she is very wary of how to act in fear of what people might do to harm her. In contrast to this, the Invisible Man narrator trusts Bledsoe to write him a letter of recommendation only to find out that he had been tricked and had trusted someone who made him look like a fool to the employers he tried to get a job from. To show this, in Chapter 9 of Invisible Man the narrator goes to his last office to visit only to find out by the receptionist there that he had been deceived by Bledsoe. On page 190 in Invisible Man the man tells the narrator to leave and then shows the letter to the narrator which reveals the truth that Bledsoe had sent the narrator away on false premises that he was being helped. The narrator had been so naïve to think that he was being helped and put his life on the line from it as he packed up and left to go to a whole different part of the country just because Bledsoe had told him to. Often people of this age lack experience that is necessary to know how to trust people and how to listen to and heed advice given. This sort of ignorance can protect people but can also cause them harm later on since they will act without knowing the consequences.
Esther and the narrator of the Invisible Man came from the south. The small towns they grew up in did not give them exposure to the wide variety of diversity that came with the city of New York. However, Esther, being white, was able to have advantages that the Invisible Man narrator did not have because he was black. Esther lived a life of luxury in her high class hotel. Not being used to this lifestyle, she often did not know proper etiquette as she describes many examples of embarrassing mistakes she had made. In Chapter Five of The Bell Jar, she recounts experiences she had with tipping (53-4) and how she often got nasty looks or comments because she had not paid the proper amounts. Or also in Chapter 4 when she remembers how she had eaten a fingerbowl which is used to wash the hands at a fancy dinner (41) because she had never been at a dinner setting with such commodities.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Invisible Man narrator stayed in a cheap place but struggled to make ends meet and owed months of rent to a woman he barely knew. In his small southern hometown, he had his parents to rely on to support him and his school faculty to guide him in his choices. In order to not disappoint them, he wrote and sent letters home telling them he had a job and was doing just fine. Since he did so, the narrator could not ask them for money. The narrator ends up relying on Mary to take care of him. In Chapter 14 of Invisible Man he realizes that because of her kindness she is short on funds. The narrator thinks to himself, “I had taken her so much for granted that I hadn’t even thought of my debt when I refused the job” (297). He had been so wrapped up in his own depression that he was not aware of the kindness and generosity that was being shown to him by a complete stranger. Once put out on his own, the narrator was unsure of how to use his intelligence properly without getting abused or taken advantage of. Both of these characters had been sheltered from diversity and therefore once they were put in a new environment, they appeared to be rude, slow, or strange.
Both Esther and the Invisible Man narrator had completed high school and were in the process of getting a college degree. Since they had an education, they often were able to take advantage of opportunities that helped them to get ahead. Still, despite their book smarts, they often lacked certain social skills or knowledge to protect themselves from dangers. For example, Esther got scholarships for her good grades and skills which led to an internship that exposed her to the real world of journalism. Even with good grades, she was clueless about sex and relationships. In Chapter 6 of The Bell Jar, Esther and Buddy have a conversation about sex. She finds out that he has already had sex with an older woman which upsets her since she thinks that Buddy has been lying to her about his attraction to her. She thinks, “What I couldn’t stand was Buddy’s pretending I was so sexy and he was so pure, when all the time he’d been having an affair” (71). Esther does not know much about a situation like this since she is young and Buddy was her first serious relationship. Later in Chapter 19 of The Bell Jar, Esther loses her virginity to a random man she had met, Irwin. Throughout her encounter with him all she thinks about is how the change is finally going to happen as she will finally have sex. Esther does not understand that sex is for intimate relationships, she just believes that it is something she has to do to catch up and become even with Buddy.
Similarly, the narrator of Invisible Man was able to get a job at a paint factory since he said he was in college. In Chapter ten of Invisible Man, one of the employees remarks to the narrator that, “putting on you colored college boys” (197) was causing a lot of dispute among the company. Even though he along with other black men were hired because they were educated, the skills of the jobs they were given required those of someone with experience with manual labor. Those who had never participated in making paints and such, as the narrator never had, often made mistakes and were punished just as he was when he ruined batches of paint. Another major difference between the two was that Esther came from a prestigious all-girl college in which many rich and respected people were enrolled. Quite differently, the Invisible Man narrator went to a Negro college where the situation was very different. Esther got her scholarship on her grades while the Invisible Man narrator won his by brutally wrestling. In Chapter One of Invisible Man, the narrator explains the whole wrestling experience and how they were blindfolded to fight one another like animals to win money. After much blood shed, he gets a chance to make a speech and is rewarded with the scholarship to the state school (32). It is ironic that his speaking skills are what won him his opportunity, but in his innocent attempt to do so, he is forced to participate in a degrading and shameful activity that put him and the other men on showcase for amusement.
Esther and the Invisible Man narrator both show their age and maturity as they prove to be very innocent and stupid in very mature social interactions. These two characters both underwent a dramatic change as they both slipped from carefree innocent young adults into troubled isolated people with abnormal thought patterns. From their young age, lack of experience, and the way they were brought up, they often struggled to fit in and act properly which lead to much stress and heartache. It seems that both could relate to a feeling of culture shock as they realized the vast differences they faced in New York City that they had been shielded from before in their small southern hometowns.
Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. 1952. 2nd Ed. New York: Vintage International., 1995.
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. 1963. Pseudonym: Victoria Lucas. New York: Bantam, 1978.
Posted by: Bettina Herold at May 1, 2007 01:09 PM
Instructor Lee Hobbs
ENGL 121.003 Humanities Literature
29 April 2007
Color—A Prison of Light: The Masque of the Invisible
A prism is both beautiful and horrifying within the same glance. It is simultaneously able to trap light for indefinite time and then release it in a burst of colors. Darkness absorbs all light and thus all color, forcing color into a bleak prison. White light separates the unseen into a plethora of colors and scatters them throughout the eye’s vision. Each of these individual colors then imprints upon the mind and calls to thought certain emotions or responses. For instance, a person might see the color yellow and think of warm, sunny days of summer. A person may see green and think of open spaces and fresh grass. From the creation of colors to how our mind calculates them, to the way their individually specific meanings affect us, there is no doubt color holds a symbolic quality all its own. For Edgar Allan Poe in his short story “The Masque of the Red Death” and Ralph Ellison in his novel The Invisible Man, color played a very striking role. Each author utilized color as a prison for the main characters and as a way to symbolically show destruction. The authors, however, also have their contrasts, and in some realms of color the two were as different as black and white.
The color prism easily slipped from being something to be marveled at, to something to be wary of as it slowly encompassed the main characters in the two written works. Prospero sat in one cell while the Invisible Man sat in the other, each contemplating just what kept them there. In Prospero’s impressive castle, he decorated seven different rooms in eight different colors—blue, purple, green, orange, white, violet, red, and black— in honor of a party he was holding (Poe 357). Though Poe did not carefully extend his description to each of the colored rooms beyond a passing glance, the fact that the rooms were specifically named certain colors was significant. The rooms in general were all light and congenial colors, fitting of the chosen occasion to invoke merriment. None of these giddy colors elicited any form of imprisonment upon the enjoyer. The last room, however, the guests were loathe and even afraid to enter. It was to this tomb-like room that Poe devoted description. It was “closely shrouded in black velvet tapestries that hung all over the ceiling and down the walls, falling heavy folds upon a carpet of the same material and hue” (Poe 357). The words “shrouded” and “velvet” give a mental image of black fabric oozing through the room to crush its occupants. “Velvet” elicited the image of very dark, thick fabric, which only enhanced the room’s black quality as it blocked out any encouragingly hopeful light; a thick choking fabric that entangled and ensnared those that tried to tame it. In continuing his description, Poe wrote “in this chamber only, the color or the windows failed to correspond with the decorations. The panes here were scarlet—a deep blood hue” (Poe 357). The red glare ended any thoughts of exodus as the party extended from joy to nightmare. The very room itself was heavy, evoking a feeling of the yoke being placed upon the innocent as they were forced into servitude. It became their cage and their fear. The room in whole was meant to symbolize death, both in the weight of its décor and its vacuum for all colors—all colors were absorbed into its blackness just as all life was eventually absorbed into death. Prospero was no exception. Just as the colors were prisoner to the seventh room, so was Poe’s Prince. The final room became his everlasting prison as he fell to his knees amongst the dark decorum he himself had chosen, killed by the burnt redness he had so tried to wrench from his life (Poe 360). The scarlet phantom swarmed around him, forming the bars of his imprisonment, but it was the blackness that latched the cage and threw away the key.
Though the charred red had claimed Prospero, the Invisible Man was a bit luckier if only in the fact that he did not die from it. However, he too was unable to escape the power black held over his life. In 1950s-1960s society, life for an African American was far from easy. White culture dominated everything, even the black culture itself. White, the absence of color, ruled all the colors wrapped in black. For Ellison’s narrator, this analogy was a way of life. Due to his dark chocolate complexion, the Invisible Man was caged and figuratively whipped by white society. His own body had become his prison. Barred in all aspects of life, from separated housing developments to education, the Invisible Man had to fight color, or the lack of it, all his life. Using education as an example, the narrator’s only chance of getting a higher education was to participate in a degrading fight with other black men (Ellison 21-26), and, as if this was not enough, to scrabble around on an electric mat in order to pick up his payment (Ellison 27). Had the narrator been white like the spectators of the fight, first: he would never have been in the building in the first place, but instead received his scholarship decently, and second: had he been in the building, he would have been watching from one of the chairs, not fighting in the demeaning spectacle. Black had stripped the Invisible Man of his decency as it clamped more and more bars onto his ever tightening cage. The most extreme point at which these constricting bars seemed ready to squeeze life from the narrator occurred as a sudden unmasking, much as Prospero came upon his trickster when the black cloak fell away to reveal the Red Death (Poe 360). Ellison’s narrator worked for a group self-dubbed the Brotherhood which, he was led to believe, was attempting to gain equality for blacks near and in Harlem, New York (Ellison 304). But one fateful day, the wool was pulled from his eyes, the disguise lifted away, to reveal that the Brotherhood was only using him to their selfish purpose and not to gain the equality they professed (Ellison 557-558). The Invisible Man’s black appearance was what had gotten him locked into the cage, a snare from which he was allowed loose by his white handlers for short bursts of time to perform their puppet dance. Upon this realization, the narrator exclaimed “Here I thought they accepted me because they felt color made no difference, when in reality it made no difference because they didn’t see either color or men” (Ellison 508). Even those he thought understood his plight, of his enslavement within his natural color, turned on him as they baited him through the bars of his personal cage. The Invisible Man’s very skin aided in his capture and incarceration. It had caught Prospero years before in feudal days, and once again black unleashed itself to claim another victim, the Invisible Man, in an era centuries later.
Blackness trapped them, but it was far from finished with its torture. It had managed to ensnare them, having made them all the more vulnerable as it moved in with its bloody cohort for the kill. The Red Death snuck easily in amongst the revelers at Prospero’s party, slipping around unnoticed amongst all the bizarre decorations Prospero had morbidly chosen (Poe 359). Prospero becomes acutely aware of his captor as it slinks with calculated ease through the rooms of his festivity. Poe illustrated that “it was then […] that the Prince Prospero, maddening with rage and shame […] rushed hurriedly through the six chambers” (Poe 360) after the spectral image. Prospero was done with his enslaver, ready to attack the color that kept him prisoner. But the blackness was not to be revenged upon. The black symbol of death turned on Prospero, showing a bloodied face as it tolled the death knell of destruction (Poe 360). Black was his destruction, scarlet hued was his entourage. Black had caged him only for the allied black and red to destroy him.
Black and red were not yet finished with their revelry. Having completed the destruction of Poe’s Prince, the two deviants swept onwards to another victim—the Invisible Man. The world Ellison’s narrator lived in, the white world, was quickly pushing him towards the brink of destruction. It was only forcing him towards this horrific end because of the blackness of his skin. Uncaring of the man beneath the skin tone, black sapped away the Invisible Man’s prowess as it attempted to remove from him all breath of life. Angered, he yelled out “that I, a little black man […] should die because a big black man in his hatred and confusion over the nature of a reality that seemed controlled solely by white men […] was just too much” (Ellison 559). Black, not white, nor any other imaginable color, sucked the narrator in and prepared to disown him for eternity in a black hole. He was whipped about by “a dark mass in motion on a dark night, a black river ripping through a black land” (Ellison 550). Once black had gotten him, a vanquishing of the bonds, especially when the one enemy suddenly divided in two, became almost obsolete. Black and red, that hellish combination, had wound its way around the life giving organs of yet another victim. The Invisible Man fought against color discrimination in an attempt to free himself from blackness by erasing color from the societal sphere. However, he soon discovered that the very Brotherhood he worked so hard to end the power of his black captor with, had turned on him. Instead of helping to release him from his bonds, the Brotherhood brought forth an ally for black—a rich, blood red color. Red, as it tolled the death of Prospero, also fueled the oncoming defeat of the Invisible Man. As he struggled against his intangible captor, he yelled out angrily, “They want the streets to flow with blood, your blood, black blood” (Ellison 558). Red and black had triumphed again, ringing forth their trumpets and flying their banners of victory over those they ensnared. For the Invisible Man and Prospero, there was no escaping the bonds of the two colors set upon their destruction.
Though the Invisible Man and Prospero may have been linked by some colors, the contrast between the two was just as colorful—literally. Whereas Poe utilized a variety of different colors, Ellison focused on black and white. For example, Poe carefully described one of the rooms of Prospero’s castle to be draped “in blue—and vividly blue were its windows” (Poe 357). Each of the rooms—blue, purple, green, orange, white, violet—had “windows of stained glass whose color varied in accordance with the prevailing hue of the decorations of the chamber into which it opened” (Poe 357). In Prospero’s realm, life was alight with color before it reached its dismal end; bright colors for a bright occasion to remove the thought of disease from the minds of the merrymakers. Black was Poe’s primary choice of color, if one may refer to the excess of color as a color in and of itself, but he purposefully chose other colors with which black formed a stark and dismal contrast. The cool, relaxing blue joined with the comfortable, cheery orange to the mellowing purple—all were wont to make one feel far from tragedy and despair. The colors symbolized happier times and memories in order to heighten the mounting sense of gloom. Had Poe decided to focus on only black, the message of his short story would be lost for there would have been nothing to allude to in the analysis of why the red masked figure, who piloted himself toward the black velvet room as a destination, brought such worry. It was only due to the mind’s having the more jovial colors to return to that gave merit to the merrymakers’ fear of the black figure.
On the contrary, due to the specific societal issue addressed by Ellison, the lack of color choice was necessary. Poe needed color whereas Ellison needed only the excess and absence of it. In the instance where Ellison’s narrator saw two pigeons flying through the air, he referred to the event as thus: “two black pigeons rising above a skull-white barn” (Ellison 452). Perhaps black pigeons exist, but the general pigeon is grayish-white in color. Moreover, why should the narrator describe a “skull-white barn” (Ellison 452) (if on the rare idea that they exist) when barns are normally at their lightest a cream color with darkish roof? Just as Poe purposefully chose a range of color, Ellison chose black and white to make his point. The pigeons were black because they needed to be, the barn was white because it had to be. The black pigeons were the black people trying to take flight away from the white barn, aka the white oppressor. Each author recognized their personal color requirements and acted upon them accordingly in order to deliver the most potent message. Had Ellison expanded upon colors other than black and white like Poe, his subtle push towards societal equality with its vastly contrasting black and white segregation would have been lost. For instance, if instead of the paint plant mixer Brockway having stated “Our white is so white you can paint a chunka coal and you’d have to crack it open with a sledge hammer to prove it wasn’t white clear through!” (Ellison 217), he had said something akin to “our blue is the best blue”, the entire message behind the statement would have been lost. Instead of insinuating that black men had become so white that the only way to tell if they were truly black would have been to look at their genes, it would have been saying “yeah, blue paint is the best”. The message was instantly lost with that one swap of a color choice. Ellison knew the importance of the colors he chose, as did Poe, in shaping their central theme and plot. The two may have disagreed as to just what colors those integral colors were, but the significance remained.
Color is a minute detail often sacrificed for the sake of following plot when reading a work of literature. However, as “The Masque of the Red Death” and The Invisible Man drew attention to the importance of color, it suddenly leapt from the page in vivid imagery. The significant symbolism and usage suddenly took on new form. Color became all at once a snare to get caught in, the fell hand of destruction, and a highly effective way to convey a message in both an obtrusive yet subtle manner. Poe and Ellison, in both their comparative qualities and their drastic differences, recognized and utilized the sphere of color. The world during their life times was not a blank palette, it was filled with colors. For Poe and Ellison, the world of literature was no different. Color became their way of expressing themes which no other media would have been fit to use. An image, a color, said everything that the authors left unspoken.
Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. New York: Vintage International, 1980.
Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Masque of the Red Death”. Rpt. Writing About Literature Eleventh
Edition. By Edgar V. Roberts. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006. 356-60.
Posted by: Erin K. at May 1, 2007 06:17 PM
Analyzing Power in Invisible Man
In my textbook for Political Science 101 – World Politics the author describes power as “… the ability to get another actor to do what it would not otherwise have done (or not to do what it would have done)” (Goldstein 57). On an individual level this could mean anything from confronting someone who skipped line at a roller coaster to engaging an assailant during an assault. Both situations see one person exerting power over another, either the assailant over the victim or the victim over the assailant, in order to achieve that persons desired outcome; the assailant wants the victim’s money or worse and the victim doesn’t want to lose anything but also doesn’t want to get hurt. While the situations are different, both illustrate the nature of conflict and how individuals sometimes choose to exert power over others to get their desired outcome. On a larger scale, political groups and national rulers exert influence and power using economic or social sanctions, religious or scientific dogma, and military force: England during the period leading up to the American Revolutionary war, extreme religious fundamentalists, and Russia’s policies regarding the Balkans are just three examples. In Watership Down, the militaristic and authoritarian Efrafans seek to assimilate neighboring rabbits, destroying those who resist (much like the Borg from Star Trek). The Brotherhood, from Invisible Man, seeks to influence the United States political scene but in order to do that they must make sacrifices, namely their members who reside in Harlem. In both of these books the organizations mentioned use some specific aspects of power to get what they want. I seek to explore, compare, and contrast these methods using the structuralist critical approach.
The first aspect of power I will discuss is geopolitics or “The use of geography as an element of power…” (Goldstein 61). When countries discuss conflicts they normally do so looking at a map of the participants involved; this practice gives them a visual representation of a state and their position and size as compared to another. In the case of the Efrafans, they knew their territory well and patrolled it regularly to maintain it; the constant presence of Efrafan rabbits gave the officers and subordinates vital experience, and allowed for other rabbit communities to be found and potentially brought into the larger warren; it also attracted the attention of enemies who regularly attacked the patrols. “There came to be no other rabbits for a long way round Efrafa and any who might wander into the neighborhood by chance were quickly picked up” (Adams 307). The defense of territory is also seen in the Invisible Man, Ras the Exhorter and the Brotherhood battle for control of Harlem. Both groups are in conflict to control the territory, at least in the lower ranks of the Brotherhood; the kingpins appear to abandon the fight late in the novel. During the riots in Harlem the protagonist, believing his superiors in the Brotherhood planned the riots, is confronted by Ras the Exhorter and a mob of followers; he exclaims: “They want this to happen, they planned it. They wanted the mobs to come uptown with machines guns and rifles” (Ellison 558). Territory is a large part of an organizations power; if you’ve got a large territory you will most likely have a larger pool of natural and human resources to draw from, thus increasing your power.
The second aspect of power I want to discuss is that of intangible power-resources. Things like “political culture, patriotism, education of the population, and strength of the scientific and technological base” make a large impact on how powerful a state or organization is (Goldstein 59). The Efrafans have a large populace and a ruling group that, in turn for their complete subjugation, keeps them safe. “As well as the Owsla, they have what they call a Council, and each of the Council rabbits has some special thing he looks after. One looks after feeding; another’s responsible for ways in which they keep hidden; another looks after breeding and so on” (Adams 233). This strong leadership translates into a strong organization which keeps the community safe and strong, albeit culturally stifled. The brotherhood has a strong central leadership which dictates to its regional leaders the positions and tactics they are to use. Between the two, the Efrafan system seems to be the stronger. While a council still dictates policy, each individual member has a hands-on role instead of the Brotherhood’s committee just dictating policy and letting its subordinates bear it forward. I believe the Brotherhood could have used this type of committee system: one member of the committee, answerable to the other members, headed up each district, guiding its progress. While certain aspects of leadership tie into intangible power the leaders themselves are a different category.
The individual leaders of each group share quite a few dissimilarities but overall are remarkably similar. General Woundwort of the Efrafans is militaristic and uses a violent response to most situations. Ras the Exhorter is parallel to Woundwort in everything except motivation; while Woundwort seeks only to survive, Ras has more political motivations, seeking to empower his people and fight back against anti-African American political system. The Brotherhood, on the other hand, uses a scientific tact when attempting to solve the ills of society: “We are the champions of the scientific approach to society…” (Ellison 350). They never really spell out the “scientific approach to society”, but I assume that at the upper echelons, violence is frowned upon and not a viable tool. This is embodied by Brother Jack, the most visible member of the Brotherhood in the novel. Jack is an eloquent speaker and a quick thinker, but also has a violent side: “’Now see here,’ he began, leaping to his feet to lean across the table … spluttering and lapsing into a foreign language, choking and coughing and shaking his head…”. In this passage the protagonist is in a confrontation with Brother Jack and the other members of the Committee. Jack loses his composure and seems to get close to acting violently toward the protagonist. This sort of emotional response seemingly goes against the “scientific” approach to politics and conflict that the Brotherhood espouses. I don’t think I would want any of them, Woundwort, Ras, or Jack, as my leader; none of them strike me as a person capable of leading other people to any sort of higher goal.
Finally, what does all this mean and how do the various organizations shape up against one another? How organizations put the preceding features to use in a conflict is called bargaining and leverage. In order for an organization’s goals to be met they must effectively balance the positive and negative aspects of power. The Efrafans don’t negotiate with the Watership Down rabbits, instead relying on brute force; which ultimately fails. Ras the Exhorter tries to organize the people of Harlem against the Brotherhood, but ends up inciting a full-scale riot, where tenements and stores and looted and burned. The Brotherhood, for being “scientific” and imposing themselves as the moral compass for the people seem to have a corrupt core with just a façade of benevolent wisdom. Even in the fictional settings of Watership Down and Invisible Man the three organizations follow real-world norms for political relations. The fictional groups, like their real world counterparts, act to further their own goals and create an outcome that is favorable to them.
It’s interesting to take a concept normally applied to non-fictional organizations and happenings and then use it as a framework to analyze characters or groups in a fictional environment. Looking back at many of the books I’ve read over the years, much of it was fiction, with the characters, settings, and stories made up and after looking at them in light of classes I’ve taken this semester and at previous schools, the authors use themes and real-world principles as the basis for aspects of their work. While I enjoy stories that have strange and foreign philosophies, I prefer fiction that has a base in real-world principles.
Adams, Richard. Watership Down. New York, New York: Simon & Shuster 2005
Ellison, Ralph. The Invisible Man. New York, New York: Random House, Inc. 1947.
Goldstein, Joshua S. International Relations: Seventh Edition. Jon C. Pevehouse Pearson/Longman. Quebec: 2006. 55-95.
Posted by: Justin Bleggi at May 1, 2007 06:28 PM
Dear Professor Hobbs,
Surprisingly Similar Settings: The Bell Jar and Invisible Man
The Bell Jar and Invisible Man are two books which appear to have little in common. However, in terms of setting the two have many similarities. The main characters, Esther and the invisible man, were surrounded by similar settings in both novels. Esther and the invisible man both experienced big city life, as well as had similar interactions with wealthy people in their surroundings. Although Esther and the invisible man had many things in common, there were many things that were different as well. For instance, Esther was able to receive help from people in her immediate surroundings while the invisible man was not.
The first similarity is that the majority of both novels take place in New York City. Both the invisible man and Esther spend a significant amount of time in the Big Apple. Along with this, neither of the characters were originally from New York. Not only did both Esther and the invisible man spend time in the same exact town, they both were originally from very different areas. The invisible man is placed in New York City because he is on sick leave from service as a merchant marine (Ellison viii). This was a change for him as it was also for Esther. The invisible man was from Waitsfield, Vermont (Ellison vii) and Esther was from New England (Plath 3).
Along with physical surroundings, both characters also faced a similar class of people in their environment. For example, when the invisible man goes to college, he decides to work as a chauffeur for the prestigious guests of the school. However, he is unfamiliar with the upper class way of living. The invisible man says that the rich people were all such a part of that “other life” that he can not even remember them all (Ellison 37). I believe the invisible man means that he interacts with so many people living a completely different lifestyle than him that they all almost seem to be the same exact person.
Even though Esther and the invisible man have many things in common, they have just as many differences. For instance, eventually the invisible man is able to find some environments in which he fits in with the people. When the invisible man arrives in Harlem, he realizes that it is run by black people for black people. He talks about seeing a black cop directing white people driving in traffic and that they followed his direction (Ellison 159). This was exciting to him, because he was not used to settings like this. This gives him a sense of optimism about his chances for success in the city. Esther never experiences anything like this. For the entire duration of the story, she is always out of place. She does not even find peace with people of her own class when she ends up in a mental hospital. She describes the women as wearing brooches and many things that are uncommon to people of her social stature.
Secondly, Esther is able to receive help from the friends and family which surround her. Unfortunately, the invisible man cannot say the same. When Esther goes to college, she receives a scholarship from a wealthy woman. When she is placed in a dingy hospital, someone pays for her placement in a better one as well. Nothing like this happens to the invisible man. When he asks for help, he receives exactly the opposite. For instance, when the invisible man asked Dr. Bledsoe for a letter of recommendation, he received just the opposite. He tried to get help, but ended up being blackmailed.
In conclusion, Esther and the invisible man had many things in common. The settings of both stories definitely share many aspects. Esther and the invisible man spent a significant amount of time in New York City surrounded by people outside of their own social class. However, Esther and the invisible man had as many differences as they had commonalities. For instance, Esther never once ended up in a surrounding where she fit in with people. The invisible man found places, such as Harlem, where he felt at home. Both novels shared many significant similarities and differences in various aspects of the setting.
Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. New York: Vintage International, 1952.
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. New York: Harper and Row, 1971.
Posted by: Jaime Hersh at May 1, 2007 08:43 PM
Instructor Lee Hobbs
ENGL 121.003 Humanities Literature
23 April 2007
Environments of Segregation
The topic for this paper is about the settings of The Invisible Man and The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak where the environments of segregation constraint the main characters. The paper will discuss how the two novels relate to each other according to their environments and will also compare the settings during the time period each novel took place. The basic idea of a setting is the natural, manufactured, political, cultural, and temporal environment, including everything that characters know and own (Roberts 109). Characters can be helped or hurt by their environment and in these two novels society is more hurtful during their time periods. The environments of the settings in which these novels take place are related because of the segregation that society imposed on them.
In both of the novels a life of segregation is imposed on the main characters in the societies and communities they live in. In The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak, the environment of the main character was about the ghetto life of the Jewish communities during the Holocaust. This environment imposed many segregation laws that Jewish people had to obey during the war. The setting is an environment of hostile and aggressive domination of a particular race on the human existence.
However, comparing The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak to The Invisible Man is quite the same concept. In this novel the environment of the main character was also segregated against in ways of trying to provide opportunity for African Americans, such as the Battle Royal. The environment the narrator was living in was a time period in which civil rights of African Americans did not really exist. The narrator is African American and the encounters he faced are due to the segregation of how one race in this country views the other. Both novels imply how the main characters fought through their life with the adversity that each faced. Both main characters face a life of their own survival in which they must go on.
However, the settings of the novels also have different representations in the ways that they relate to segregation. In The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak, the setting is different compared to The Invisible Man because of the segregation faced. The segregation faced is different because of the opportunity that African Americans can acquire. In the diary, the main character is faced with a life of no opportunity in front of him. The main character’s only form of survival is the hope of an allied country that could liberate the Jewish people in the ghetto, which was under the rule of The Nazi Party. This segregation gave no opportunity of hope for being free.
In The Invisible Man the environment of the setting towards segregation is a little more helpful toward the African American race. In this novel, the opportunity of going to college for the narrator actually happens. Although this opportunity was basically over, the entertainment of corrupt men it still provided a way out of poverty and day to day survival for a black man in a society of racial controversy. Opportunity for the narrator to provide a better way of life was given unlike the diary where opportunity for a better life really did not exist. Both novels relate to one another and can be compared though many different ideas of segregation in the environment of which the settings take place.
In conclusion, the environment of the settings of these two novels can show how the world can improve our society everyday. As the world learns from literature like in these novels the day of human peace between races could be reached. However, the world has a long way to go before such a thing can be reached. The environment of world is just as corrupt and cruel as in these novels where segregation of a particular race takes place. The affects of the environment in these novels can show the kind of progress that could be reached worldwide.
Ellison, Ralph. The Invisible Man. 1952. 2nd Ed. Vintage, 1995.
Roberts, Edgar V. Writing about Literature – Brief. 11th ed. Pearson, 2006.
Sierakowiak, Dawid. The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak: Five Notebooks from the Lodz Ghetto. 1939-43. Ed. Alan Adelson. Trans. Kamil Turowski. New York: Oxford UP, 1998.
Posted by: Shayne Schmidt at May 2, 2007 02:52 PM
Instructor Lee Hobbs
English 121.003 Humanities Lit
20 April 2007
The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak and the Invisible Man: The Strength of One
The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak: Five Notebooks from the Lodz Ghetto written by Dawid Sierakowiak, and the Invisible Man written by Ralph Ellison both had protagonists who were in search of their personal identities. Dawid Sierakowiak and the narrator from the Invisible Man both lost their sense of self due to oppression from society. In the Invisible Man, the narrator was able to find himself once he realized that society was only bringing him down. Dawid Sierakowiak did not have the opportunity to rediscover his identity once the Nazis stripped it form him during the Holocaust experience; however, Dawid was still able to impact others on the effects of discrimination. The message that both stories send to the readers is that even though society discriminated and segregated the protagonists, they had the strength within themselves to make changes and positively influence others in society.
Living in a society full of discrimination is difficult for anyone, but it was very difficult for the African American narrator in the Invisible Man, who lived during the civil rights movement in the 1950s. The most obvious form of discrimination the narrator experienced was in the “battle royal.” The “battle royal” was a blindfolded fight between African American males simply for entertaining white men. When the narrator joined the Brotherhood, an anti-racist group, he felt that this group would give him more confidence because they were sharing the same thoughts and emotions against racism. The narrator quickly learned that this group was racist itself; and they were not representing the feelings oppressed African Americans were feeling at the time. The narrator was just getting comfortable in the Brotherhood when he received an anonymous letter that stated, “You are from the South and you know that this is a white man’s world” (Ellison 383). This letter was written right after the narrator gave his speech to the African American community. This is ironic because the Brotherhood blames white racists for making them feel invisible, but they are forcing the narrator to be invisible, to not be himself, and to only say certain things to the community that they approve of. At the end of the story, the narrator is sitting underground and he states, “I’m an invisible man and it placed me in a hole-or showed me the hole I was in, if you will-and I reluctantly accepted the fact” (Ellison 572). Although the narrator sounds defeated, it seems that once he finally saw the hole he had been placed in, he realized that he is the only one that can get himself out of it. The Brotherhood seemed like a positive, supportive group to be a part of, but the narrator was a better role model for his community. By the end of his journey, the narrator realized that he could make a much more defiant impact on the community and learn more about himself if he acted independently.
Dawid Sierakowiak dealt with oppression like the narrator in the Invisible Man but in a very different time period. Dawid wrote about his losses in his journals composed in The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak. The Nazi regime came into the Lodz Ghetto and took everything away from Dawid and the rest of his community. Dawid had no choice but to succumb to the Nazi’s. This is one of the main differences between Dawid and the narrator from the Invisible Man. The narrator had the choice to act independently once he realized that people around him were only bringing him down, but if Dawid were to act against the Nazi regime his life would have ended a lot sooner.
The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak is a non-fiction story, and so even though Dawid was not able to save himself from the oppression of society like the narrator in Invisible Man, Dawid's real-life story still has an impact on society today. Dawid Sierakowiak’s journals continue to teach others the effects that discrimination and segregation have on people. The goal of the Nazi regime was to strip Dawid of his life and identity, but they really didn’t succeed because his journals are filled with hope and continue to inspire readers today. Even at times when no one had hope Dawid wrote uplifting things in his journals such as, “In politics the most important thing is that the Germans have been stalled. Perhaps the era of their endless victories is finally over” (Sierakowiak 115). Dawid Sierakowiak’s journals send the message that even at times of incredible oppression one person can make a difference and can have a stronger influence on society.
Most stories have obvious symbols and themes, but the message they send to their readers are often more difficult to interpret. I think that the Invisible Man and The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak have many messages to send to their readers, but the most obvious to me was the importance of being independent and to know that one person can make a difference. Both protagonists dealt with discrimination from society. The narrator in the Invisible Man had a bigger struggle within himself and he was able to find his identity when he stopped turning to others and took control of his life. Dawid could only live with what the Nazi regime gave him, but his personality shined through his journals and they still teach people about the Holocaust to this day. Both stories prove the harsh effects of an oppressive society, but they give hope that one person can overcome and make a difference.
Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. 1952. 2nd Ed. Vintage, 1995.
Sierakowiak, Dawid. The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak: Five Notebooks from the Lodz Ghetto.
1939-43. Ed. Alan Adelson. Trans. Kamil Turowski. New York: Oxford UP, 1998.
Posted by: Jen N at May 2, 2007 08:58 PM
Instructor Lee Hobbs
English 121.003 Humanities Literature
29 March 2007
In the novel Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison and the short story “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant, there were several similarities, but numerous dissimilarities when relating the settings of those very different works of literature. Those works were written almost fifty years apart in completely different locations. With the dissimilarities of those pieces of literature, there were many connections that involved the settings and had greatly influenced character development.
In comparison, those stories involved settings which took place over several years. The elapse in time allowed for great character development and plot progression. The protagonists in each of the stories were not wealthy and were in the lower-to-middle class. Their economic status greatly influenced the settings in each of their individual situations. The narrator in Invisible Man and Mathidle were not happy with their socio-economic classes. They both had a desire for improvement, but each protagonist was held back by the inequalities in their individual societies. Mathidle wanted very much to live a life full of great luxury and to be able to dine “on the pink meat of a trout or the delicate wing of a quail” (Roberts 6). On the other hand, the narrator in Invisible Man aches for social equality and racial equity in a racially charged atmosphere of oppression. Those settings were made to support inequality, either socially or economically, and kept members of the minority or lower class in their respective places. While the similarities were great in number, the dissimilarities were also numerous.
In contrast, the settings took place in very different locations that influenced the ways the characters acted and thought. The time period of the settings was fifty years apart, in a time when ideas were starting to change rapidly. The narrator of Invisible man first lived in a deep southern region of the United States in the 1930’s, where it was mainly a country setting. After “winning” a scholarship, he moved to the busy setting of New York City, particularly in Harlem, where the scenery drastically changed. The setting of a big city, with diverse cultures, allowed for the plot to develop. The setting helped to influence the narrator to join a civil rights group and he got involved immediately. In the final chapters, including the epilogue, the narrator decided to change his scenery. That change in setting of an underground dwelling helped him realize that he can either stay in the hole he was in or “shake off the old skin and come up for breath”(Ellison 580).
In “The Necklace”, Mathidle lived in France in the late 1800’s where being in a lower economic class was a sort of prison, which a person could not escape from. One prominent setting for Mathidle was the great ball for the Ministry of Education. At that ball, she could finally act like the wealthy people that she wished she could be. After Mathidle lost her friend’s necklace, she was forced to live like the common house wife she was. Forced to get two jobs, she became rough from manual labor, but she finally learned a valuable lesson: not to take anything for granted. The setting of being in lower-class France, one of labor and housework, helped teach Mathidle valuable principles that she would never forget.
Those two separate and distinct settings have influenced those characters to be the people that they have become. One setting took place in France in the late 1890’s, and the other in Harlem in the 1930’s, yet both settings have equally developed their characters. In Invisible Man, it was a lifetime of inequality and living underground that finally allowed the narrator to realize that he needed to only make himself happy and let his own words be heard instead of ignored. While in “The Necklace,” it took one grand night at an exquisite party and years of hard labor for Mathidle to understand that you can be happy in a lower economic class. In conclusion, the two very different, yet similar settings have greatly influenced the final outcome of both the protagonist’s lives.
De Maupassant, Guy. “The Necklace”. Rpt in Writing About Literature by Edgar Roberts. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006.
Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. New York: Vintage-Random House, 1947.
Posted by: Greg Crossland at May 3, 2007 01:20 PM
Professor Lee Hobbs
English 121 Humanities Literature
20 April, 2007
A Hero’s Journey
The book, Invisible Man, focuses on the journey of an African-American man searching for an identity and fighting for his equality during the 1950’s. This theme of a hero’s struggle to establish himself is common in the books I have read in English this year. There is one book in particular that I felt had an especially complimentary theme and that book is Watership Down. There are striking similarities between the journey of Hazel and Fiver in Watership Down and the journey of the “invisible man”, and a few differences as well.
Watership Down tells the story of Hazel and Fiver and their search for a safe haven, somewhere where they will not be oppressed for who they are. Along with a few other rabbits from their warren they set out on a journey to a new, more secure warren where they will be in control and will not have to report to any Owsla or have to give up the good food to their superiors. They risked their lives numerous times and faced unknown dangers at every turn, but they did not give up because they were fighting to better their lives and live how they wanted to live. In Invisible Man an African- American man fights against racism, people in power who were trying to sabotage his attempts at getting somewhere in life, and even his own mind that was letting the world get him down. Although the “invisible man” was not facing death at every turn in his story, he was still fighting for his opportunities, a better life, and for his right to live as an equal among men.
These books are very similar in that the “heroes” of the stories were both being oppressed by external forces for things that have nothing to do with what kind of person the characters are. The “invisible man” was being oppressed because he was born of the wrong race in a Caucasian-dominated society. Hazel and Fiver were oppressed because they were lower ranking rabbits. The Owsla were the only ones who got the privileges that all the rabbits wanted, just as white men got privileges that black men did not in 1950’s America. In other words, the main characters in both books are oppressed for being different, and lower ranked, than a dominant class or race. In both cases, the fleeing rabbits and the “invisible man” are no different than the ones in power on the inside. The differences are visible from the outside only. Both storie’s heroes made it apparent that they were not inferior in any way when they fought for what they believed in and overcame their boundaries.
Another similarity is the protagonist’s struggle for the freedom to live and progress like any other member of society. In Watership Down the rabbits could not accomplish that where they were living. They were forced to stay at one level and that was below, inferior to the Owsla. They would forever be inferior to them there and would never get the good food or have the right to mate. In Invisible Man, the main character wants to go to college, get a good education and a good job, but racists and other people such as Dr. Bledsoe try to see that he does not rise above his circumstances. The protagonists in both stories manage to do what they can to better their lives, in spite of the repression. The rabbits knew the only option for them was to leave the warren, where their home would be bulldozed; while the ”invisible man” was first sidetracked by the Brotherhood, he realized he had to just keep working for real change and not let the others bring him down.
A major difference between these stories is that Watership Down is for the most part an external conflict, while in Invisible Man I realized at the end that the majority of the conflict occurs internally. Racism and Bledsoe are both external conflicts, but what was keeping the “invisible man” down the most was how he viewed the world and how he reacted to what was going on with the people around him. Instead of ignoring them and working his hardest to rise above their oppression, or trusting people who would not attempt to sabotage him, he wallowed in his misery until he realized that he was only invisible because he let himself be invisible. “I’m shaking off the old skin and I’m leaving it here in the hole” (Ellison 581). Fortunately at the end he learned from his mistakes.
Another major difference is that “The Invisible Man” had to deal with his conflicts by himself. He did attempt to stand up to racism with the Brotherhood, but discovered they were not going to change anything. They could not help him deal with his internal conflicts, something that he alone could resolve by figuring out who he was, separate from other’s ideas about him as a black man. In Watership Down Hazel and Fiver were with numerous other rabbits who left the warren with them, and a few who joined up later, making the conflict easier to overcome. Granted their journey was more dangerous physically, but being with friends always makes things easier. A rabbit in a group is less apt to have to answer, who am I?
In conclusion, there are interesting similarities and differences between these two books. The fighting for survival and flight from oppression due to racial or class differences are common to both books. However, in one story the conflict is internal and racism has the potential to damage or destroy the inner person of the protagonist. In the other story, the rabbit characters fight for external freedoms. Thus, the stories have similar but in some ways completely different meanings and messages.
Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. New York: Vintage International, 1995.
Adams, Richard. Watership Down P172. New York: Scribner, 2005.
Posted by: Jeff Hoover at May 3, 2007 01:45 PM
Tatiana S. Mack
Instructor Lee Hobbs
ENGL 121.003 Humanities Literature
25 April 2007
Watership Down VS. Invisible Man: There Are Leaders And There Are Followers
There are many leaders in this world. However, there cannot be leaders without followers. General Woundwort and Brother Jack are obvious leaders for their groups. They have the skills it takes to be an authority figure for many people. Yet, General Woundwort and Brother Jack have many similarities and differences among them which will be compared and contrasted.
General Woundwort was the Chief rabbit of Efrafa. When he was young, he was the strongest of his siblings (Adams 303). Once he grew up, Woundwort was very wild and tough, for instance, he nearly killed a cat, and tore the wire from the front of his hutch (Adams 304). Woundwort thrived to be leader of a warren, and would fight anyone in his way (Adams 304). His warren was growing, and he did not want to lose control. So, Woundwort developed a system which would help in keeping things under control. He promoted rabbits to be in his Council, his Owsla, and his Wide Patrol. Woundwort also had different rabbits eating at different times, thus minimizing attention from humans (Adams 305).
In contrast, Brother Jack was leader of The Brotherhood. The Brotherhood was an organization in which people were working towards a better world for all people. “Too many have been dispossessed of their heritage, and they are banded together in brotherhood so as to do something about it” (Ellison 304). They went to different places in Harlem, and made speeches so people could join their movement.
Conversely, although Woundwort was Chief of Efrafa, he was not a nice rabbit. Woundwort was a bully, and many were afraid of him. Woundwort ran a very strict warren. Most of the rabbits in Efrafa could not do anything but what they were told (Adams 234). Efrafa was growing so fast, that there was not enough room for all the rabbits to move comfortably. However, when some female rabbits asked Woundwort could they leave, he did not let them. The rabbits were only allowed to eat at certain times of the day, regardless of the weather, and if the weather happened to get to bad to eat, then the rabbits missed their opportunity to eat for the day (Adams 234). Also Woundwort would send his Wide Patrol to patrol the areas surrounding Efrafa, and if they found any rabbits, Wide Patrol picked them up, and brought them back to Efrafa (Adams 234). All the rabbits in Efrafa were under such strict orders, that they could not call their life their own (Adams 233). More so, if someone tried to go against the rules of Efrafa, they would be punished. Woundwort made an example out of Blackavar, a rabbit who tried to escape Efrafa: “The Council ripped up his ears and said he had to be seen at every morning and evening feed” as well as tell anyone who asks (Adams 316). Nevertheless, Woundwort does take care of his rabbits by providing safety. Woundwort “worked out his whole system of concealment and perfected it until rabbits in Efrafa were as safe as stars in the sky” (Adams 235). Likewise, Woundwort believed that he was giving the warren peace and security at a price which was modest enough (Adams 307). Woundwort was a violent rabbit and trained his Owsla and Wide Patrol to be tough. Also, Woundwort did not hesitate to fight Bigwig, a rabbit who came into his warren, and helped female rabbits escape (Adams 437). Sadly for Woundwort , Efrafa was never the same again once he disappeared, after an invasion (Adams 442).
Unlike Woundwort, Brother Jack was no general, but he could snap his orders like one (Ellison 331). Jack also ran a strict organization. For new members of the organization, members had to read material that explains the Brotherhood in detail (Ellison 305). Also, new members had to undergo four months of intense study and indoctrination under guidance (Ellison 351). For that type of organization, Jack knew who would make a difference, in a good way. Thus, Jack was not afraid of going up to people who had potential, asking them to join the Brotherhood (Ellison 289). Being a part of the organization, meant that people got new identities (Ellison 309). When someone annoyed Jack, he would do something about it. Jack made an example out of one brother, who was being very annoying to Jack. When Jack raised his hand, signaling, two men shoot from across the room and lead the brother roughly away (Ellison 312). Although the organization is very intense, and strict, Jack takes care of his brothers. Jack gave a new member backed up rent money that needed to be paid, and got him an apartment (Ellison 309). While the Brotherhood is a movement, it is “against violence and terror and provocation of any kind-aggressive, that is” (Ellison 365). Sadly, for the Brotherhood, the organization had quit fighting (Ellison 428).
On the whole, every leader, obviously, does not have the same characteristics, but have some in common. Brother Jack and General Woundwort were both authoritative, and had to keep strict rules in order for their organizations to run smoothly. Though both their organizations ended, things were strong while it lasted.
Adams, Richard. Watership Down. 1972. New York: Avon, 1996.
Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. 1952. 2nd Ed. Vintage, 1995.
Posted by: Tatiana S. Mack at May 3, 2007 06:30 PM
The Invisible Man and Dawid Sierakowiak: History and Culture Connect in
TimeConnections in Time
The historical and cultural aspects in the Invisible Man and The Diary
of Dawid Sierakowiak may not seem closely related. The Invisible Man is
set in the late 1920's and early 1930's America. The Diary of Dawid
Sierakowiak is set in the late 1930's and early 1940's Germany during World
War II. Though they may seem far apart in time and place, there are many
similarities, along with differences, between history and culture in these
two pieces of literature.
In the Invisible Man, our protagonist, the narrator's name is unknown.
All that is known to the reader is that he is a young black man who has
grown up in the south and who claims to be an "invisible man". Knowing
that the narrator's story was set in the late1920's and early 1930's, I
know that this was the time of jazz, blues, and soul. There was a lot of
racism between black and white people. There were also a lot of political
movements going on for the rights of black people and for women; among
other political groups of that time. The narrator joins a brotherhood for
reasons including he could pay off his debt to his landlady, Mary. The
brotherhood wanted him for his skills in public speaking. Because of this
skill his job was to speak for the rights of many different people.
There were many political groups in this time, there still are many
today, and there were also some groups like the brotherhood in the Lodz
Ghetto. Dawid was very involved in the political groups at his school and
did good work for his schoolmates. In one of his entries Dawid writes, "I
won! Despite Prentka's fury, the nutrition problem was discussed at the
outset. The newly formed seven-member committee, under my leadership, is
supposed to deal with the problem immediately" (Adelson 90). He also took
part in his schools newspaper, though some of his writings did not make it
in the paper, probably because of it being too politically correct for the
Nazis to allow it. He did however get a few good writings in.
Dawid had a yearning for knowledge. He always wanted to go to school
to learn more and when he was not able to attend school he read books. I
think he knew most about language. He knew approximately five languages,
more or less. Our protagonist in the Invisible Man also loved to learn.
He did well enough for the white, upper-class men to give him a scholarship
to college. Unfortunately, he had to go through a lot of trouble to get
it. All he wanted to do was give his speech and instead, before they let
him give the speech, they made him fight in the "Battle Royal"; this was a
fight between other young black men where they were blindfolded to fight.
After the fight they were made to pick up their reward of dollar bills and
coins of a rug that electrocuted them when they touched it.
This kind of treatment of white people towards black people was not
uncommon in this time. It is also quite similar to the way the Jewish
people were treated by the Nazis. In many of the ghettos, the Nazis would
beat up, shoot, hang, murder, and torture the Jewish people, and other
ethnic groups, as mush as they pleased. This treatment was much worse than
the way our protagonist got treated. Still, they both have the same idea
of people being treated appallingly by other ethnic or racial groups. So
though these two books were set in different times and places, they are
very similar. Some of these similarities are still among the people of
today. Racism, political groups, and such are still present and may never
Posted by: Kristin Dudra at May 5, 2007 12:51 AM
Instructor Lee Hobbs
ENGL 121.003 Humanities Literature
25 April 2007
History Changing views in InvisibleMan & The Masque of Red Death
"There is the context of the word themselves to consider, the
historical (cultural) context underlying the time in which the words were
written and the relevance of 'you,' the reader that must be taken into
text." (Hobbs 79) For instance, the Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison is a
book that was published in 1952, about a man discovering the controversy
between races of white and black. His character inspired by his own life
creates a story describing the time of segregation. This book turns out to
be a very ideal story for people to understand why Dr. Martin Luther King
Jr. later proclaimed, "We are all equal." However, stories may also create
vivid pictures in our imaginations, such as a very expressive writer, Edgar
Allen Poe. Poe seemed like a very mysterious person, but created some of
the world's best darkest literature. For example, The Masque of Red Death
was published in 1842, which was one of Poe's amazing short stories. The
Red Death is a plague that a man, Prince Prospero, tries to protect his
people from. Prospero invited his friends, family, and many other guests
to undergo protection within his abbey's thick castle-like walls. Like
many other of Poe's short stories, this story is in full explanation of
detail and ends to be a breathtaking experience.
In the story of Invisible Man, Ellison's character begins to fight
for the rights movement even before Martin Luther King Jr. began his
speech. He expresses the rights in a black community with being in white
community as well and spoke on his behalf of his race around the nation.
For instance, the narrator accepts this scholarship to college from the
uncivilized white men that are full with gratitude. He has no judgment
towards the white men's act towards him, but appears to show the reader
that the white men are racist people. One prime example states "To Whom It
May Concern," I intoned. "Keep This Nigger-Boy Running." (Ellison 33)
Within this statement, the narrator never let it get to his mind and he
still went to the college to extent his knowledge.
On the other hand, The Masque of the Red Death was based on another
storyline about a prince who was trying to save his people. Prince
Prospero held a masked ball for his friends, family, and other guest so he
can have them mingle and have a great time. "There were buffoons, there
was improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there
was Beauty, there was wine." (Roberts; Poe 239) Poe was describing Prince
Prospero's masquerade party with details and items that were there. As
everyone is having a good time, the clock strikes at midnight and that is
when the "Red Death" comes into the room. As the prince chases the Red
Death into the one of the colorful rooms, Red Death kills the Prospero and
then gets everyone else.
Invisible Man and The Masque of the Red Death do have similarities
within the main characters. Each story displayed their bravery and
strength, not only for themselves, but many others too. In the Invisible
Man, Ellison shows his will against racism, and the fight for equality. He
battles racism for justice and believed that everyone has rights. In
addition, The Masque of the Red Death had the same values; Prince Prospero
fought "Red Death." He protected his people like most would in the war.
He gave them shelter, entertainment, food, and high hospitality. In both
stories, they were fighting a war for what they believed in. Prospero was
fighting death, disease, and a serious spreading plague, while Ellison's
character was fighting the war against racism.
On the other hand, The Masque of the Red Death and the Invisible Man
do have differences. Invisible Man is based on a non-fiction novel that
has true life events and occurrences on Ellison's life. As for The Masque
of the Red Death, this fictional short story is something that is truly out
of the unordinary. Most likely this story is made up and never was based
on true facts. An additional to one of the differences, is the actions of
the characters. Ellison's character, the Narrator, took on the outside
world and acted for what was right. In Poe's story, Prince Prospero
protected his people and fought the disease by hiding. He did show that he
cared, but didn't take any action as Ellison portrayed. Prospero was
hiding from the disease and Ellison was on the frontlines against racism.
In Invisible Man, the story was inspirational and faithful. There was
reflection on nation's society once. A time when people were mostly
judgmental and little people had to stand up for their rights. The Masque
of the Red Death does not have that strong moral background. It was simply
an imaginative outlined thriller known to trick our minds and leave us
When a book has a strong moral background such as the Invisible Man,
the strong feeling in the story comes out. Ellison builds this story so
well that every emotion has sentiment in every word. Edgar Allen Poe's The
Masque of the Red Death is well written short story that is imaginative and
has creativity for the mind. Poe seems to have the golden effect to react
the mind in suspense and surprises. These two stories are well known, and
the authors have created an impact with their writings, even today.
Stories can create a huge role in the feelings and imaginations of the
human body in society today.
Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. New York: Random House, 1980.
Poe, Edgar Allen. The Masque of the Red Death. Rpt. In Writing About
Literature. By Edgar Roberts. New York: Prentice Hall, 2006.
Hobbs, Lee. What is Historical Context? Indiana, PA: Copies Now, 2007.
Posted by: Jenny Troutman at May 7, 2007 11:50 AM
Humanities Literature 121.003
23 April 2007
Invisible Man and “The Necklace”: The Fight for Social Equality
In the novel The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison and the short story “The Necklace” written by Guy de Maupassant, the reader may use the critical approach. This approach “utilizes a number of techniques that have been selected as the basis in the chapters…discussions on the point of view, tone, plot, character and structure are all examples” (Roberts 184). By using this approach, the reader is able to notice many similar thought patterns and themes of social inequality among the main characters.
There are many similarities apparent throughout both stories dealing with the theme of social inequality. “The Necklace”, even though it is a short story, has a lot to do with social class and the problems the main character faces. In the beginning of “The Necklace” the readers are introduced to a woman married into a social class to a “minor clerk in the Ministry of Education” (Roberts 5). She becomes unhappy with being unable to afford valuables and possessions that the rich have. She dreams of the day when she will be able to have expensive food, luxurious clothing and jewelry. Instead, she is stuck in an old apartment, which tears at her. “It tortures her, filling her with despair. She burned with the desire to please, to be envied, to be attractive and sought after” (Roberts 6). Her husband later presents his wife with an invitation to attend a dinner at the Ministry of Education. She becomes aggravated and asks him what she is supposed to do with it, being as though she has no jewels or clothes to wear. She is then addressed by her name, Mathilde, as her husband volunteers to buy her a new dress. Still unhappy, Mathilde complains that she has no jewelry to wear and decides to borrow a diamond necklace from her friend Mrs. Forrestier. At the party Mithilde turns out to be a huge success looking amazing in her dress and jewels. When she returns home from the party still basking in her glory, she realizes that she has lost the necklace! By this point in the story, things are hopeless as her and her husband, go in search of the lost necklace. The couple ends up buying a new diamond necklace to replace the lost one. They worked ten long years to work for the money that they had to spend on it. In the end, the readers find out that the necklace had not been a real diamond all along.
The Invisible Man, though not exactly the same as “The Necklace”, has many similarities evident in its chapters. The main character is introduced in the opening sentence of the novel, with no name. He is considered the invisible man “simply because people refuse to see [him]” (Ellison 3). He feels as though he doesn’t exist in other people eyes, much like Mathilde did in “The Necklace” because of her social class. The readers learn that he is a black man, who faces racial inequality throughout his life. In the first chapter, he is forced to fight in what is called the “Battle Royale” which the winner receives the opportunity to attend college. “ It was a scholarship to the state college for Negroes” (Ellison 32). The narrator ends up winning. It seems rather unfair that in order to receive an education he had to fight for it because of the color of his skin.
This is like in order for Mathilde to attend the party she needed to look as though she was part of a higher social class. He ends up attending college and becoming a driver to the white men. He gets into trouble when he takes Mr. Norton to the black slave quarters of Harlem, and also with the president, Dr. Bledsoe, and is forced to go to New York to find work. Dr. Bledsoe promises to give him letters of recommendation to help him. It turns out to be a trick by Dr. Bledsoe and the narrator is forced to survive on his own.
The narrator’s grandfather gives advice to his family that the narrator remembers throughout the story. His grandfather advises his family to use masks as a form of self-defense in the fight against racist white power. This “mask” is a symbol of what he is hiding behind, much like Mathilde hiding behind jewels and fancy clothing, pretending that she is something she’s not. Throughout the novel, the invisible man is forced to define his own identity between everyone he meets. He feels somewhat accomplished when he makes a speech for the Brotherhood, feeling more confident after doing it. Mathilde also felt confident after being the center of attention at the party.
The two stories have many examples of inequality among the main characters, whether it’s skin color, or social status. Both characters fought to be something, while never giving up. The stories make the reader aware of racism and inequality. It’s not what’s apparent on the outside. It’s what’s on the inside that counts.
Ellison, Ralph. The Invisible Man. Second Vintage International Edition, March 1995.
Maupassant, Guy de. “The Necklace” RPT in Writing About Literature-Brief Eleventh Edition by Edgar Roberts. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey Publisher, 2006.
Posted by: Tina W at May 7, 2007 01:29 PM
THis is my super final draft!
Instructor: Lee Hobbs
23 April 2007
The Struggle of Two Men
The founding fathers of our country believe that “every man is equal” but, in all reality that is not the case. Throughout our history there have been many times when people had to struggle to succeed, express themselves, and even live. In both The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison and The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak the protagonists fight to succeed, express themselves, and live. In these two pieces of literature, the main characters fight for many things and try to overcome their hardships. The aspect of life that both of these individuals had to struggle for the most was for their right to an education.
Both of these protagonists in these works struggle to have an education. In our society education is known as the “key”. Without this key these individuals could not better themselves. If a person’s right to an education is taken away, this person is being stripped of the chance of becoming the best that they can be. Each of these men was forced to struggle in trying to obtain an education. In many was the struggle is the same but in the cases of Dawid and “the boy” their struggles are very different.
Dawid was not permitted to attend school any longer when the Germans took over the ghetto of Lodz. Throughout the events of the war, the Germans were like a rock of oppression that was placed on the Jews. Not allowing Jewish children to attend schools was one way for the Germans to continue to have the upper hand and control the Jewish people. During this time the Jewish community was not a rich community. Even when their families spent most of their wages on tuition for their children they still could not afford it. The Principal at Dawid’s school, Principal Perelman, announced to the students at the school that the students who had not paid their tuition in full had no reason to come to school the next day (Sierakowiak 51). After hearing this Dawid did not allow this news to crush his love for learning and knowledge. He tried to talk to Principal Perelman about the financial situation of his family. However, that made no difference.
Each of these men did what they could have done to try and succeed in earning an education. “The boy” in The Invisible Man, struggled to succeed in earning his education. There also was a group of people who had fault in trying to stop him from succeeding in his studies. During his time it was the times of the Civil Rights movement. Things were said to be separate but equal. Of course things were separate but, equal not at all. “The boy” was not of a wealthy family and could not pay for school. He did what he could to try and attend college.
The “Battle Royal” was a way for “the boy” to earn a scholarship. This was not a normal scholarship that was given to him. He had to decide if his self respect, pride, and dignity were more important to him than his education. This scholarship was pretty much a way for the white man to continue in having the upper hand. If he wanted his tuition for college paid for he had to be blind folded, fight in a ring, and be publicly humiliated. He was not only being publicly humiliated, but he was being degraded by the rich, white men who attended the “Battle Royal”. Knowing that being an educated man was the only way to succeed in a white man’s society, he went through with the abnormal scholarship. “All of the town’s big shots were there in their tuxedoes, wolfing down the buffet foods, drinking beer and whiskey and smoking black cigars.”, “the boy” describes the type of people who attended the event (Ellison 16). There was no black man at the event to watch. The only black men at the “Battle Royal” were those who had enough strength, drive, and determination to fight and go through any thing to continue their education.
Throughout their lives these individuals had to face such hardships as poverty, racism, and unequal opportunity. Even though times were hard these men tried to succeed. “The Boy” went through the degrading way of earning a scholarship to continue his education. He even went to an all black college that surely did not offer the same education as the college that white students would attend. Dawid continued in educating himself when he was no longer permitted to attend school. While at work he hid the fact that he would read the paper at work. Both of these individuals knew that having an education was the only way of succeeding in life.
These individuals had to deal with many different hardships in their lives. Dawid had to worry about his father eating all the food rations that they had for a certain amount of time. He also had to worry about becoming ill and not being able to work which would lead him down a path of death in a concentration camp. “The boy” had to worry about prejudice with every step he took. He walked on egg shells worried that his scholarship would be taken away. “The boy” had to struggle to maintain a job to be able to eat and live.
In each of their lives the protagonists in both, Ralph Ellison’s the Invisible Man and The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak fought through a struggle. Their struggles were similar but at the same time very different. Dawid fought for his life as “the boy” fought for equality in society. Event though the struggles of two men can be different, but hardships are a time of struggle and struggling is something that one should not have to deal with in life.
Sierakowiak, Dawid. The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak. Oxford, NY: Oxford UP, 1998.
Ellison, Ralph. The Invisible Man. New York, NY: Random House Inc, 1947
Thanks, Carlos GOnzalez eng121.003
Note from Lee Hobbs:
Carlos, you made it just in time!
Posted by: Carlos R. Gonzalez at May 9, 2007 11:30 AM
*NOTE* The deadline for this assignment has now passed. Comments are no longer being accepted for this particular assignment.
I've thoroughly enjoyed having each and every one of you in my course this semester. It has been my pleasure to read your ideas and to discuss your thoughts on the great texts we've read this semester in class. I hope you'll all continue to pursue reading literature throughout your lives and, above all, think critically! Have a great summer!
Posted by: Lee at May 9, 2007 11:50 AM
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