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Being a Part and Apart: Double Consciousness in Racial Conflict

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Conflict has been a crucial element in society and human relationship and coexistence. America is a multicultural nation, which made it a fertile space for interracial conflicts. The greater one was the African Americans conflict. According to Du Bois, “the problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line”(41). He suggests because African Americans shares interests to fight injustice and eliminate prejudice, they had to work together. He defines double consciousness in an impressive passage: It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder…He wouldn’t bleach his Negro blood in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of opportunity closed roughly in his face.(02-03) the souls of black folks.

This quotation explains one of the racial conflicts the African Americans face within the American community. Besides, Du Bois improved the term “double-consciousness” especially to serve individual whose identity was divided into two facets. Invisible Man is suffering from an identity crisis, torn between the collective and the individual identity, American and African self. Indeed, the novel explores both external and internal issues that face the modern educated black man, who holds two different identities. Consequently, the “juxtaposition of the white and black races has created a massive psychoexistential complex” (Fanon 14), which is symbolized by Mr.Norton’s look; the inferiority complex is derived from the white supremacy. This racial conflict affected the black’s identity makeup. Black alienation is activated through the eyes of Mr.Norton. from being apart and a part :fragmented identities in Ralph Ellison’s invisible man by Adam Winstanely, Word count: 2775, Body in American Literature.

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Ellison’s expressed how blacks and whites destinies are interrelated, as a result of the pluralistic needs of American society. This paradoxical unity is captured in Invisible Man’s notable exclamation; “weren’t we part of them as well as apart from them?” (Ellison, Invisible Man 575). Blacks are considered as a part of American society whenever they serve it, but once the white interests are done they are considered apart from American society. In the novel blacks and whites’ self-consciousness rise up by the presence of the Other. Norton thinks that his fate is in the protagonists’ reflection; he approves that from the start “that your people are in some important manner tied to my destiny” (Ellison, Invisible Man 41).

Double consciousness is a fundamental theme in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and this is live expressed in the crying of the protagonist: “About eighty-five years ago they were told that they were free, united with others of our country in everything pertaining to the common good, and, in everything social, separate like the fingers of the hand. And they believed it. They exulted in it. They stayed in their place, worked hard, and brought up my father to do the same”. (8) The above crying of the invisible man emphasizes the internal individual conflict persuaded by the racial conflict in America. Indeed, the issue that affects the protagonist is the inner conflict between what he is expected to be by whites and his innate disposition as a black person. This conflict affects the realization of his true-self. This was the reason behind his crying “Still I was more afraid to act any other way because they didn’t like that at all” (18). Ralph Ellison in his novel invisible man recreates the racial conflict at the physical and psychological level of both individual and society in general. Invisible Man recreates racism as a fundamental issue of American society in vivid manner.

The protagonist of invisible man is not blind but blinding himself purposefully from the truth of the African American reality. By doing so he is escaping from and toward his self-consciousness, he is avoiding his annoying awareness and preferring the blissful forgetting. In the first speech of the protagonist with the brotherhood declares that African American people are dispossessed of one eye. he is trying to convince himself with the brotherhood principles, that whites and blacks can live in peace together as brothers, after he discovers that even the brotherhood used him for their personal interests.(the concept of double consciousness and striving for self-consciousness in W.E.B.Du Bois double consciousness formula and Ralph Ellison’s invisible man, by klara szmanko …) He suffered from psychological and physical trauma because of his feeling of double identity and vision. However finally after the invisible man discovers his true self he understands the importance of diversity. This moment holds Ellison’s philosophy which is self-discovery through the novel.

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