The novel “The Invisible Man” is a striking example of an inexplicable fortune that invariably confounds sociologists and marketers asking questions: “How did Ellison become a genius?” and “How did an almost unknown novelist suddenly create one of the greatest American novels?” In fact, when the first print run of “Invisible Man” was published at the New York publishing company Random House on April 14, 1952, the author had just turned 39 years old, and he had only a few published stories, essays, and reviews.
We have prepared extensive “Invisible Man” essay topics for those who are assigned to write a literature essay. The first thing you should do before starting to write your essay is to find the most interesting topic for your paper. We have divided our topics into categories so that you can choose according to your type of paper.
Invisible Man by Ellison Essay Topics for Argumentative Papers
- What does the narrator learn when he falls into that coal cellar at the end of the book? What does he discover as the truth?
- In the epilogue, when the narrator bumps into Mr. Norton on the subway, what is the significance? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the narrator having no name?
- What is the importance of Ellison’s “Invisible Man”? Why was it written? What is Ellison trying to convey?
- What is the symbolism of the Liberty Paints plant in the novel?
- Racial segregation of Ralph Ellison’s novel “Invisible Man.”
- The theme of masking in Ellison’s “Invisible Man.”
- In the book “Invisible Man,” how does racism influence the narrator’s search for identity?
- What are the invisible societies in real life according to the novel “Invisible Man”?
- There are several points in the novel during which the narrator undergoes what seem to be major identity changes (i.e. a change in self-understanding). Identify at least three such points and the changes they entail. Next, can these changes be understood as exemplifying the Aristotelian search for attaining a virtuous character?
- How does cruelty function in “Invisible Man” as a whole, and what does the cruelty reveal about the perpetrator and/or victim?
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison Topics for an Analysis Essay
- Is the protagonist a hero? Why or why not? What is the protagonist’s message on race?
- Analyze Marxist literary criticism applied to “Invisible Man.”
- How does the grandfather’s “curse” and death scene affect the invisible man throughout the first 13 chapters?
- How does the division between how the narrator in “Invisible Man” perceives himself and how others perceive him relate to the motifs of blindness and invisibility?
- Analyze masks and invisibility in Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man.”
- Analyze the Harlem Renaissance and it’s impact on Ralph Ellison’s book “Invisible Man.”
- Analyze the narrator’s transformation from blindness to sight as he chronicles how he ultimately embraces his invisibility. In examining this journey, focus on the roles he often plays without realizing it.
- Throughout the novel, the narrator acknowledges his invisibility. Analyze what Ellison means by this label, focusing on moments of blindness as well as clarity.
- Analyze speech in the novel “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison.
- In recalling his grandfather’s dying words, the narrator is forced to confront the idea that other people may be masking an ulterior motive or a hidden truth. Why is the narrator seemingly so unable to see others’ true motives behind their masks even after he has been fooled on other occasions? Analyze and describe the reasons for the narrator’s naivete.
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison Essay Topics for Compare and Contrast Papers
- Comparison of the common underlying themes in “Crime and Punishment” and “Invisible Man.”
- Comparison between “Great Gatsby” and “Invisible Man”: hope against despair, individuality in context of society, and emotional migration (as well as physical).
- Comparative paper of “Passing” by Nella Larsen and Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man”: identity or social standing, gender roles, and understanding the black-self.
- Compare the short stories “Battle Royal” (which is the first chapter in Ralph Ellison’s novel, “Invisible Man”) and “The Birthmark.” What are the ways each depicts characters that are deemed socially unacceptable because of their outward appearances?
- Compare “Invisible Man,” “Looking for Mr. Green,” “Seventeen Syllables,” and “The Things They Carried,” and choose two of these stories whose narrators seem less than trustworthy.
- Read the prologue and first chapter of Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” (first published in 1952). What connections do you see between this excerpt and “Beloved”? In what ways are these two works of literature talking about similar ideas?
- Compare “Invisible Man” and the short story “Battle Royal.”
- Compare “Heart of Darkness,” “The Old Man and the Sea,” and “Invisible Man.”
Invisible Man Topics for Expository Essays
- “Invisible Man” is considered an existential novel. In what way do the tenets of existentialism help inform the reader’s understanding of the characters? Examine the narrator’s existential journey; in the end, is he “successful”? What are some primary themes and/or images in the novel that help develop the concepts of existentialism?
- History is an important concept in this novel. We see the protagonist and other characters talking about history at times; we also see Ellison taking real historical events and people and fictionalizing them – weaving them into the story. How should we interpret the use of history in “Invisible Man”?
- The names of characters in “Invisible Man” are highly symbolic, sometimes of the character and sometimes of broader issues. Look at two or three characters in the novel in terms of the significance and associations with their names, and what should we see here. Give examples from the text as to how these individuals embody what their names suggest.
- How does gaining an education change a character’s life? Is it always positive?
How does it affect relationships? What motivates a character to become educated: Is education always “going to school”?
- What role does the family play in the plot or characterization seen in the literature?
- The narrator has a somewhat uneasy relationship with his landlord, Mary Rambo. What is the source (or sources) of his uncomfortable feelings? Examine and evaluate how IM interacts with and relates to Mary and speculate why.
- Examine the way in which the narrator’s social roles inhibit his search for identity.
- Examine the use of symbols in “Invisible Man.”
- Examine the use of names in “Invisible Man” and what they mean.
- Examine the role of music in “Invisible Man.”
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