Event Title

"Almost Like my own Terror": Examining White Women in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

Department of English

Honors Thesis Committee

Leslie Bickford, Ph.D.; Casey Cothran, Ph.D.; and Kelly Richardson, Ph.D

Location

DIGS 221

Start Date

20-4-2018 1:45 PM

Description

Although there are relatively few prominent white women in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, it seems that Ellison had an important purpose for these characters. Almost immediately, the book suggests that despite their differences, white women and black men, like the novel’s narrator, share a common bond. Both groups are seen to be controlled by society’s dominant group, white men. Of course, despite this shared bond of being dominated, there exists a divide between the narrator and white women, a divide perhaps created by the de-facto ruling class that controls both groups. The narrator and other black men see white women as sexual objects first and as people second, and this is seemingly due to indoctrination by popular society that wants them to view women as objects. Similarly, white women, like Sybil from the Brotherhood, also view the narrator as a stereotype and not a person thanks to the same kind of societal indoctrination. The power white men exert on the interactions between these other groups of American society is represented in other ways in the novel. For example, black men like Dr. Bledsoe and white women like the unnamed Brotherhood member frequently use the narrator and other downtrodden members of society so they can benefit in their own way, becoming privileged minorities within their own oppressed groups. In addition, this paper also seeks to examine the novel’s depiction of white women alongside black women, as both groups are represented in wildly different ways throughout the novel.

Course Assignment

ENGL 300 – Cothran

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Apr 20th, 1:45 PM

"Almost Like my own Terror": Examining White Women in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man

DIGS 221

Although there are relatively few prominent white women in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, it seems that Ellison had an important purpose for these characters. Almost immediately, the book suggests that despite their differences, white women and black men, like the novel’s narrator, share a common bond. Both groups are seen to be controlled by society’s dominant group, white men. Of course, despite this shared bond of being dominated, there exists a divide between the narrator and white women, a divide perhaps created by the de-facto ruling class that controls both groups. The narrator and other black men see white women as sexual objects first and as people second, and this is seemingly due to indoctrination by popular society that wants them to view women as objects. Similarly, white women, like Sybil from the Brotherhood, also view the narrator as a stereotype and not a person thanks to the same kind of societal indoctrination. The power white men exert on the interactions between these other groups of American society is represented in other ways in the novel. For example, black men like Dr. Bledsoe and white women like the unnamed Brotherhood member frequently use the narrator and other downtrodden members of society so they can benefit in their own way, becoming privileged minorities within their own oppressed groups. In addition, this paper also seeks to examine the novel’s depiction of white women alongside black women, as both groups are represented in wildly different ways throughout the novel.