Ralph Ellison was a huge proponent of symbolism. In a 1965 interview, he said that the purpose of his profession was to seize upon the abiding American experience as they come up within my own part of the American nation, and project those patterns, those personality types, those versions of man's dilemmas, in terms of symbolic actions (Kostelanetz). From Ellison's response, one can easily see the significance he placed on imagery, especially when it symbolizes significant life experiences. Ellison spoke of "meaning" and "value" as his desired effect, and that is most critical to his overall purpose as a writer. Invisible Man focuses on the black individual's search for racial and social identity. Ellison's main character is searching for his identity as an invisible man. This entrapment of a black man in a white society is depicted through bird imagery throughout the novel.
In Chapter 1, Ellison's unnamed protagonist relates the "Battle Royal" scene. In this scene, Ellison connects the black community and white women.
The narrator describes the white female dancer, saying "She seemed like a fair bird-girl girdled in veils calling to me from the angry surface of some gray and threatening sea" (Ellison 19). Blacks and women are both powerless and struggling to overcome the oppression of white men, to whom they are simply property. The narrator initially perceives the girl as a sexual object, but then sees the invisible woman through that fog: I saw the terror and disgust in her eyes, almost like my own terror and that which I saw in the other boys (20). At that moment, the invisible man understands the subjugation shared between him, the other boys, and the bird-girl (Eversley). The narrator describes the chaos around him: a clarinet playing; people threatening the boys if they looked at the girl; others threatening if they didn't; and that one bird-girl as untouchable as if she had been locked in a cage far beyond the narrator's reach.
[...] Birds as trapped blacks in a white society in invisible man Ralph Ellison was a huge proponent of symbolism. In a 1965 interview, he said that the purpose of his profession was to “seize upon the abiding American experience as they come up within my own part of the American nation, and project those patterns, those personality types, those versions of man's dilemmas, in terms of symbolic actions” (Kostelanetz). From Ellison's response, one can easily see the significance he placed on imagery, especially when it symbolizes significant life experiences. [...]
[...] The hunted quail is a metaphor for a black individual living in a society that stands against everything he believes in. In telling the story of how his wife attacked him with an ax, Trueblood says: was just like a jaybird that the yellowjackets done stung 'til he paralyzed but still alive in his eyes and he's watchin' 'em sting his body to death" (63). Ellison repeats this image at the end of the novel, when the narrator collapses from exhaustion in the manhole, his ultimate entrapment: "It was a state neither of dreaming nor of waking, but somewhere in between, in which I was caught like Trueblood's jaybird that yellow jackets had paralyzed in every part but his eyes" (568). [...]
[...] His new self recognizes that he is somewhat responsible for the course his life has taken. After the narrator's episode with Sybil in chapter 24, he wanders through the city. What happens is Ellison's motif come full circle: I looked above toward the sound, my mind forming an image of wings, as something struck my face and streaked, and I could smell the foul air now, and see the encrusted barrage, feeling it streak my jacket and raising my briefcase above my head and running, hearing it splattering around, falling like rain. [...]
[...] Ed. Amritjit Singh and Maryemma Graham. MI: University Press of Mississippi Moses, Wilson J. Black Messiahs and Uncle Toms: Social and Literary Manipulations of a Religious Myth. PA: The Pennsylvania State University Stanford, Ann F. Bodies in a Broken World: Women Novelists of Color and the Politics of Medicine. NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 2003. [...]
[...] In this example, white runs on a black statue, reversing the stereotypes that dubbed blacks as and whites as The fact that the statue represents the college Founder is also significant. The college, which supposedly aims to assist black students, in essence aims to keep them “below the waterline,” or “under the veil.” The transcendence in this scene throws dirt on the Founder, therefore the school as a whole. Ellison uses the bird droppings to subtly remarks upon the sly methods used to retain blacks from reaching their full potential (Eddy). [...]
using our reader.