Final Paper

Am Lit II Final Essay

About 6 pages.

You may write an essay on Invisible Man, or you may choose to write a comparative essay on Invisible Man and Huck Finn (see reverse side for topics). As always, you must make a strong claim, and present your argument in a coherent, organized manner. Do your best to be as specific as possible in your discussions of both the text and references to things outside the text (historical references).

GRANDFATHER’S ADVICE: To what extent is the conflict presented by the grandfather’s advice resolved in the IM’s mind? Show moments when IM becomes aware of his grandfather’s advice and moments when he rejects this advice. How do the reflections on Rinehart relate to the advice? How do the moments when the grandfather’s advice is referred to or alluded to reflect IM’s understanding of himself?

ADVICE: How is IM’s journey to individuality shaped by the advice he receives from various characters? Discuss each piece of advice he receives, how he responds to it, and whether or not he conforms to the advice in the moment and/or in the end.

THE PAST: Looking back on the past can help us gain a clearer sense of self. There are numerous examples of IM reminiscing on both fond and disturbing memories from his past. Choose a series of memories and explore the effect these memories have on his quest for identity.

ELECTRICITY, POWER, AND LEADERSHIP: Ellison uses images involving electricity (electrical power) to make a point about social and political power. What do we learn about where power comes from, how it is used and retained, and whom it benefits and how? Why can’t IM successfully pursue power until the very end of the novel?

IMAGES/ARTIFACTS: Explain how the images/artifacts from a particular chapter (examples would be the briefcase/ “brief case”; Mary Rambo’s piggy bank; Clifton’s doll; Brotherhood name slip; sunglasses/”Rineharts”; any of the various letters, either real or imagined). What does the imagery convey about the hero and novel as a whole? Make sure to refer to the end of the novel.

PHOTOGRAPHS: There are several photographs in Invisible Man (the images of black families migrating after emancipation on the walls of the college; Norton’s daughter’s portrait; the evicted couple’s photos; the photograph of Frederick Douglass on the Brotherhood office wall; the “rainbow poster;” and several others). Choose a series of photographs to discuss and analyze their significance in the narrative.

METAPHOR: Consider the dominant metaphors of the text (Norton, running, dolls, underground, invisibility, rebirth, dreams/nightmares). Choose at least TWO to explore. In order to make the essay coherent, find a relationship between/among the examples you employ. (Clear with your teacher before you begin.)

Choose a topic of your own design. Clear it with your teacher before you begin writing.


1. THE RIVER AND THE CITY: Compare the River in Huck Finn to the City in Invisible Man. How does each location function as its own character? Or, how does each site function for the main characters of the two novels? Are there similarities between the space of the River for Huck and the space of the City for IM?

2. TWO DECISIONS: Compare Huck’s decision to tear up the letter and “go to hell” with IM’s decision to go underground—to accept “the hole I was in.” Are these similar decisions? Do they have important differences? To answer this question, you will need to discuss the two characters positions in society as well as their personal development toward these moments of decision.

3. Compare a common metaphor or theme in the two novels. Clear your topic with your teacher before writing.