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Structurally, Invisible Man is episodic and cyclic, presenting the reader with versions of a basic pattern of disillusionment enacted in increasingly complex social environments. In each cycle the narrator eagerly accepts an identity provided by a deceitful mentor and eventually experiences a revelation that shatters the illusory identity he has adopted. This repeated narrative pattern demonstrates the pervasiveness of racism and self-interest and convinces the narrator that he must find his individual answers and stop looking to others.

Hersey, John. . Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1974.

Covo, Jacqueline. The Blinking Eye: , 1952-1971. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow, 1974.

List, Robert N. Dedalus in Harlem: . , 1982.

University from which he retired in 1979. He has accepted numerous honorary doctorates and published two collections of essays. The essays in Shadow and Act (1964) focus on three topics: African-American literature and folklore; African-American music; and the interrelation of African-American culture and the broader culture of the United States. Going to the Territory (1986) collected sixteen reviews, essays, and speeches that Ellison had published previously.

Reilly, John M., ed. . Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1970.

In 1958 Ellison accepted a teaching position at Bard College. In subsequent years he taught at Rutgers University, the University of Chicago, and New York

Trimmer, Joseph, ed. . New York: Crowell, 1972.

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Ralph Waldo Ellison was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on March 1, 1914. His father, Lewis Ellison, was an adventurous and accomplished man who had served in the military overseas and had lived in Abbeville, South Carolina and Chattanooga, Tennessee before moving to Oklahoma a short time after the former Indian territory achieved statehood. In Oklahoma City Lewis Ellison worked in construction and started his own ice and coal business. Ellison's mother, Ida Millsap Ellison, who was known as "Brownie," was a political activist who campaigned for the Socialist Party and against the segregationist policies of Oklahoma's governor "Alfalfa Bill" Murray. After her husband's death, Ida Ellison supported Ralph and his younger brother Herbert by working at a variety of jobs. Although the family was sometimes short of money, Ellison and his younger brother did not have deprived childhoods.

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Invisible Man is also concerned with the communal effort of African-Americans to define their cultural identity. The novel surveys the history of African-American experience and alludes directly or indirectly to historical figures who serve as contradictory models for Ellison's protagonist. Some of the novel's effect is surely lost for readers who do not recognize the parallels drawn between Booker T. Washington and the Founder, between Marcus Garvey and Ras the Destroyer, or between Frederick Douglass and the narrator's grandfather. W. E. B. DuBois' description of the doubleness of the African-American experience fits the Invisible Man's narrator, and DuBois' assertion that the central fact of an African-American's experience is the "longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self" stands as a summary of the novel's overriding action.

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quest for truth. It also introduces the briefcase, a symbol of the narrator's naive effort to accept prescribed identities. The briefcase stays with the narrator until the end of the novel, accumulating objects and documents that represent the various false identities he assumes. These two symbols are united at the end of the novel when the narrator burns the contents of his briefcase in order to see in his underground hideout.

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Ralph Ellison's single published novel, , is recognized as one of the finest achievements in modern American fiction as well as one of the most complete statements of the African-American experience.