After reading The Invisible Man, the question is whether the narrator was truly invisible, or if he was visible, but ed to discrimination? The narrator in this novel is somebody who is invisible, yet also subjected to humiliations and women who try to use him to act out their fantasies. And the narrator also is a part of a black liberation movement. The humiliations that he is subjected to includes being forced to participate in a boxing match with another black man, blindfolded, in a boxing ring just so that he can get to college; being told that he was given good letters of recommendation, when, in actuality, these letters of recommendation portrayed him as lazy and shiftless; and being used by various white women to act out their fantasies of either being raped by a black man or having sex with one. Moreover, throughout the novel, he is constantly subjected to discrimination and prejudice. He cannot find a job because of the poor letters of recommendation, and he initially had problems getting into the college because of a man who was keeping him from this, while focusing on the story of Huckleberry Finn, stating that he was “Huckleberry,” and he was the only white man who would be sympathetic to the narrator in those racially charged times.
The question that needs to be answered in this novel is whether the narrator was truly invisible, or if he was visible, yet discriminated against. If he was truly invisible, then there wouldn’t be any overt acts against him. He would simply be living his life, without making a wave anywhere he goes, and he would, essentially, be left alone.
The answer to this is complex. The narrator evidently feels invisible, as this was the title of the book, and it is symbolically represented by the fact that he feels that others do not see him. At the beginning of the novel, this is probably true – he is hiding from the world, as he lived in an underground basement where he was squatting. He was able to live in this place, rent-free, because of his invisibility during this time. He was also able to steal electricity because of this invisibility. However, this is a condition that he has chosen, after a life that was filled with discrimination and humiliation. Invisibility was not something that the narrator was, all along, and it would be hard to imagine that he could go back to being truly invisible. It more likely that, instead of being invisible, in that nobody pays attention to him, he was actually more of a hermit – life had beaten him down so much that he had to retreat, in full, from the world.
As evidence that his life was filled with discrimination and humiliation, there are many examples of this. One is that he was invited to go to a black college that was prestigious, yet he had to get in a boxing ring with other black men and fight them for this right. This was obviously not something that a white man would have to do to get to a good college, so this is a good example of discrimination against the narrator. Another good example is when the narrator goes in search of a job, and is given seven “letters of recommendation,” which actually were letters that portrayed the narrator in a bad light. He is experimented on in the hospital when he is knocked unconscious by a tank at a workplace, as he was given unauthorized electric shocks. He ends up, right before going underground, being involved in a racial riot and was hounded by the police, who chase him down a manhole and covered it up behind him. At this point, the narrator becomes invisible, but it wasn’t always so. The events of his life forced him to be invisible, therefore it was a misnomer that nobody sees him – people did see him, but they treated him poorly, so he had to hide from the world.
The book Invisible Man might have had a symbolic title, for the narrator felt invisible. However, it really is a misnomer, as the narrator was not invisible, but, rather, was actively discriminated against in a world that treated black men as inferior.