In a modern world it is really difficult not to feel invisible. We are programmed to be unrecognizable to ourselves and to mimic and emulate what it is deem right and desirable.
For many of us rejection is an experience to avoid at all costs –no matter what.
So when thinking about the novel Invisible Man written by Ralph Ellison, novelist and musician, in the late 1940s, it is deeply striking how much of the novel’s symbolism is still relevant in 2014.
The novel is written in the first person by an black man who doesn’t have a name. He moves through society and with each interaction see that his human-ness is invisible to others.
He is used and abused by people mostly because he is black and this was pre the Civil Rights era. Modern times, the situation isn’t so stark for black people as a whole.
It is much more insidious and the effects are seen in the deterioration of the black family, the brutal murders of unarmed men by the police, the amount of missing black children that never seem to get the right amount of press and the idea that Zoe Saldana is the right look to play Nina Simone on the big screen.
The first striking scene in the novel is called the Battle Royale. As a young man the narrator won a scholarship to college and was invited to speak but could only receive his scholarship if participated in a demeaning blood sport where other blind black men fight each other.
The symbolism of that scene is quite visceral to me because in order to advance in a society that is designed to eliminate the uniqueness of individuals and receive the rewards, one must fight their fellow man. These contestants often remain blind because this way they cannot acknowledge how they are objectifying themselves for something as frivolous as 15 minutes of spot light.
The novel is rife with intense symbolisms and leaves me with the question: am I invisible because society doesn’t see me or am I invisible because I do not see myself?