Essay about The Bird Motif in Invisible Man

679 Words 3 Pages
In Ralph Ellison's novel, Invisible Man, the narrator must go through a journey of self discovery. He does not identify himself with the black people, nor is he a part of the white culture. Throughout the novel, Ellison uses the bird motif emphasize the personalities of the groups that he is describing. In his humble beginnings the narrator's greatest desire is to achieve the power that would earn him respect from all races of people. He attempts to achieve this by adapting white ideals and adopting white customs. With the opportunity of going to New York, the narrator's future is open to many possibilities. "Man's hope can paint a purple picture, can transform a soaring vulture into a noble eagle or a moaning dove"(126).

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They gather in shadows and feast on others(454). The pigeons whirl out of trees and circle around the city(435). They "plummet swiftly into the trees" making frightening sounds and blackening the sky(436). The huge masses scare our narrator. He runs from them and from the droppings that they leave behind(534). He does not want to be caught up in the storm.

From his southern lifestyle, the narrator is forced into believing that being white is the right way. "If you're white, you're right"(218). There is a similar example with the birds. While the narrator is at the Golden Day, Halley yells for the group of stool-pigeons to clean up and change into a white suit(82). To be white is to be right in every way. When the white man enters, all must be clean and proper. At Emerson's office the birds go wild until the white Mr. Emerson enters the room(181). At the Golden Day the drunkards must be proper because there are white people in the building(82).

The birds mock the narrator because of his alienation from all races and groups of society. At the college the narrator dreams of walking past the white magnolias and how the mockingbirds fluttered their tails at him(34). At the factory health room, the narrator hears the mocking song of the mocking bird above a choir of muted horns, while the air fills with white gnats(234). In this instance he is the caged robin and picked clean (as in the kids' rhyme)(193). He is trapped and cannot escape,

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