Portrayal of Women – Invisible Man

In Invisible Man women were primarily given the role of prostitutes, caregivers and sex objects that presented them as inferior to men. The author fails to reflect on the struggles of women in the novel but encourages reflecting on the struggles of black males. In Invisible Man, written by Ralph Ellison, women are intensely stereotyped by the author and could also be characterized as “invisible” based on the author’s description of the main character and his experiences in the novel. White women in the novel were something that invisible man thought to be forbidden; they could be characterized as the forbidden fruit.
Invisible man saw a blonde white woman at the Battle Royal who was beautiful in his eyes. Unfortunately, he could stare at her all he wanted but couldn’t touch the white woman. At the end of the novel he decides to use Sybil for his own greed, later he feels guilty and calls what he did a sin. It seems that in the novel white women are presented with higher regard than black women. During incidences in the novel white women were usually there to help invisible man with his journey to figure out who he is. They are given roles that are basically more important than the black women in the novel; but this is not always true.
In the novel he was saved by a white girl during his eviction speech, a white women seduced him when she lied about having problems with the Brotherhood and a white woman saved him when he was made to sing for the white people. Women characters are given minor roles compared to invisible man and lead him on his journey in the novel. Sybil was the women that invisible man decided to use for his own intentions. Sybil showed to have stereotypical opinions about black men and invisible man understood what type of women she was.

Invisible man decided that she was perfect to take advantage of because she was lonely when the Brotherhood took a lot of time. Sybil is a very weak woman and needs certain attentions in order for her to be completely satisfied. Invisible man strived to improve himself in the novel, which Sybil failed to do. He seeks out and “chooses to use Sybil precisely because she is “lonely,” “misunderstood,” “neglected,” and “wistful” (Sylvander 78). Invisible man manipulates this woman and takes advantage of her. In this sense Sybil is stereotyped as a weak woman who doesn’t improve herself.
There was also another women whose husband was a member of the Brotherhood; even though she didn’t believe in the Brotherhood. She was interested in satisfying her emotional needs and tricked invisible man in coming over by saying she had questions over the Brotherhood. Invisible man portrays white women in the novel as beautiful and sensual; black women fail to have these characterizations. Black women in the novel such as Mary are limited to being caretakers and serving without the beauty that he characterizes the white women with. Invisible man presents the way black women were viewed in society compared to white women at the time.
The women who lived with Trueblood, Kate and Matty Lou, lived a harsh life and experienced no happiness. Trueblood impregnated his own daughter, which shows how horrible women were treated in this novel. Trueblood tries to explain what he had done and how he tried to move without moving; a mere excuse for his actions. Mary played a significant role in the novel because she was the main character who helped invisible man find his identity. Unfortunately, in order to truly find himself the narrator had to leave Mary. Mary immediately came to his rescue after he was released from the hospital.
She was a mother figure in invisible man’s eyes who agreed to nurture him until he could support himself. This is proof that women in the novel were given minor roles . Invisible man uses Mary until he leaves her for the Brotherhood. But it was Mary’s lectures of leadership and helping the society that drove invisible man to the Brotherhood. Mary was “something out of my past which kept me from whirling off into some unknown which I dared not to face” (Stanford 29). The women in this novel basically helped the speaker find himself in society. The black and white women in the novel gave to the speaker and helped him throughout the novel.
They are not unimportant in the novel but do not play any major roles as human beings. The narrator’s opinion regarding women always focuses on their physical appearances, which supports how he thinks they are no more than how they look or make him feel. The women never make their own decisions and only act out to help the narrator in his actions. Ellison’s invisible man does minimize the female experience by not having a main female character. There is an absence of female perspective in all decisions made about invisible man. Invisible man silences the voice of women and stereotypes them in the novel.

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