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Essay about The Symbolic Briefcase in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man

Assignment id 1016377
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Assignment type Essay
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The Symbolic Briefcase at Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man The narrator of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man is the victim of his own naiveté. Through the novel he hopes that different people and groups are helping him when in reality they're using him for their own benefit. They give him the illusion that he's important and useful, all the while running him . Ellison uses much symbolism in his book, some blatant and some difficult to comprehend, but nothing heightens the oppression and deception of the white hierarchy enclosing him greater than his treasured briefcase, one of the main symbols in the publication. The briefcase is introduced in the very first chapter. The narrator receives it after having a speech endorsing Booker T. Washington's philosophy of black subservience before his hometown's leading white citizens (and after being made to fight like an animal because of their amusement in the "battle royal"). Wrapped in white tissue paper symbolizing skin color and mistrustful nature of the present's givers, the calfskin short case is awarded to him by his school's superintendent. Inside is a scholarship to an all-black faculty. The superintendent, who moments before watched him attempt to pluck coins out of an electrified carpet, says , "Boy, take this decoration and keep it nicely. Consider it a badge of office" (32). The irony is that the only "badge of office" it suggests is that of excellent slave. He also says, "Someday it'll be full of significant papers" (32). This is especially ironic considering what happens to all those "important papers" at the close of the publication. The night after his address that the narrator has a fantasy in which his grandfather tells him to look within his briefcase. Inside he finds a notice.

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