Introduction to Black Politics
21 November 2014
The Double Consciousness of the Invisible Man
“It is a peculiar sensation this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.” – W.E.B. DuBois
According to Ralph Ellison, the Negro is an invisible man not because he has no identity but because Eurocentric hegemony and dominion does not allow his blackness to permeate through the dominant European archetype. This “invisibility” is a dominant theme for the duration of the novel in which the main character and narrator remains a nameless figure and as such a man without identity because the world refuses to see him for what he truly is – a Black man in America.
This struggle with identity causes an internal struggle within the narrator that is not unlike the history of the American Negro:
[This] history [is one of] strife, —this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He would not Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed upon and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly on his face.
This struggle is depicted vividly through several events in the book as the narrator attempts to break through the framework of Eurocentric supremacy without having his manhood as a Black man castrated.
For example, at the beginning of the novel the narrator is offered a scholarship to a prestigious Black college by wealthy white patrons after being forced to fight in a “battle royal” and...