The novel Invisible man can be interpreted through many other literary criticisms but in order to achieve a more concrete interpretation of the novel, biographical criticism should be used. Biographical Criticism is the best choice for this novel because Ellisons experiences of his life, beliefs, and the time period in which he was raised, have direct influence on his writing of Invisible man. After reading Invisible Man and doing research on Ralph Ellison’s life it is clear that the two are heavily connected.
Unlike many other Black protagonists in works of literature at the time, the character of the narrator, who remains nameless throughout the novel, is an educated and articulated young man who is also very self-aware, this character symbolizes Ellison in that they share many of the same attributes and struggles in their lives. An example of a struggle they share is their struggle to be accepted in society. Much like the nameless character in his novel Ellison received a lot of hatred in his early life because of his color.
When Ellison was just eight he was humiliated by his white peers who threw money a his feet and forced him to scramble for the money, this event that haunted Ellison plays a apart in the novel when the narrator is forced to collect money on an electric rug. It’s important to understand that the two events are connected because both events involved money that the narrator and Ellison never received which plays on the view that Ellison shared, which stated that African Americans at that time were merely puppets fighting over worthless accomplishments that did nothing in the advancement of the African American people.
When the personal beliefs of an author are shared by the main protagonist or any other notable character in that such authors work, it becomes another aspect of Biographical Criticism. The Invisible Man is full of Ellisons beliefs system and many of his beliefs are exercised through the narrator who also happens to be the main protagonist of the novel. The fact that the narrator hates how the brotherhood, in which he is a member of, puts a limit on what particular members can accomplish is a prime example of Ellisons beliefs playing a role in the novel.
Ellison believed that anyone could accomplish anything regardless of race and their should be no limitations on what you can do just because of the color of your skin. Ellison had limits put on him as a young adult much like that of the narrator, these limitations that Ellison experienced shaped his strong beliefs about what one can accomplish. When the narrator states “And my problem was I was always trying to go in everyone’s way instead of my own”(Pg 183) the reader gets a sense of the limitation that the narrator feels, this view or belief on the idea of limitation that the narrator has is also shared by Ellison.
It is also important to note the time period in which Ellison grew up in and how that time period influenced his writing of Invisible Man. When analyzing a novel through Biographical Criticism one must understand the time period that influenced the writer and how that time period portrays itself in the work. Never is there a better example of a particular time period influencing a writer and his work than in the case of Ralph Ellison and the Invisible Man.
Both the narrator and Ellison grow up in a time period that centers around discrimination and racism, this ultimately has a direct influence on Ellison and his writing of Invisible Man. It’s no coincidence that the narrator grows up in a society that looks down on blacks along with Ellison, this is because the narrator emulates Ellison. When narrator says “That’s my life, telling white folk how to think about the things I know about”(Pg 77) the reader gains an understanding of what life was like for an African American of that time period, which carries the same message for the time period in which Ellison lived in.
All aspects of Biographical Criticism are present in the novel Involve Man, which makes it the most effective criticism to use when interpreting the novel. Through Ellisons experiences in his life, personal beliefs, and the time period that affected his work, Biographical Criticism is the most evident and beneficial criticism to use when interpreting Invisible Man.
January 9, 2018
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