Choosing your own path

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"...the most powerful obstacle to self-reliance is indeed our tendency to imagine ourselves beholden to our past statements and formulations, to imagine that we are simply what we once were, and that only." Eloquence and Invisible Man by Christopher Hanlon page 87.
This is like saying that you are just holding yourself back or that you are only limited to what you limit yourself to. Otherwise, the options are infinite. I found this interesting because I really didn't think about this in Invisible Man, but the narrator did only limit himself. He relied on others and what he was taught by them and then he did not progress into another direction until he had no choice. He stayed to blind to the actions of Dr. Bledsoe until he was made to read the letter and then he still did not want to accept it. Why? Because one: the person he looked up to would then seem like a fool and a fraud and two: Fear. Where would he go on now? He was not ready to take a new direction. He thought he had it all figured out and he wanted to stay in the ignorance of that one path. He had no choice to change that course because the one he thought he was on was already dead and gone. It is not always easy to accept a new direction on your own and this is precisely why so many take the narrator to a new path instead of him doing it for himself. But, in the end, he will not have a path that is right for him until he chooses the path that best suits his needs instead of what everyone wants from him. And that goes for any one real or a character. A personally chosen path is usually better.


3 Comments

April Minerd said:

This was definitely an issue for the protagonist at the beginning (actually up until the end, but more so in the beginning) of the book. He is bound by the image of who he once was, because he had invested so much into that idea of himself. Gradually, he does begin to release himself from the burden of his past until finally he becomes invisible. He no longer projects his past onto himself nor will he continue to allow others to project their ideas onto him. At the end he says, “I must shake off the old skin and come up for breath.”

Jessica Bitar said:

I agree with what you are saying. The narrator limited himself by saying he was invisible. He did only what the others wanted him to do and he did not be himself. As the title of your blog suggests, he needed to follow his own path, instead he followed the paths others chose for him. This was something he finally realized in the epilogue. He was invisible, but only because that is the way he made himself to be.

Christopher Hanlon said:

Nikita, I think you've got Ellison's point exactly. I think that *is* Ellison's point in bringing Bledsoe into the novel, which might be why he disappears so completely after he is unveiled as, as you put it well, "a fool and a fraud." I also like your phrase, April, that the protagonist begins "to release himself from the burden of his past." That is such an Emersonian way to put it. And yes, Jessica, absolutely: invisibility *is* Ellison's way of thinking about what it means to be and do what others choose for you. Thanks to all three of you for reading my essay so carefully. Isn't _Invisible Man_ just fantastic?

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