Presenter Information

Michael CudmoreFollow

Major

English/Literature Focus

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Bruce Gentry

Keywords

Stereotypes, deceit, charlatan, artificiality, melancholia

Abstract

After exploring several different critical evaluations of Ralph Ellison’s novel Invisible Man, I discovered that multiple scholars paint the figure Rinehart in a positive light, believing he represents the benefits and possibility of an African-American man living in an urban environment. Other critics posited that Rinehart serves more as a representation of a lack of morality and the deception of others, but they often only mentioned this point briefly or without substantial supporting evidence. This paper aims to not only argue that Rinehart serves as a more negative figure than many scholars believe, but also to build upon the arguments of those that agree that Rinehart is a negative presence. The first half of this paper details the arguments of scholars Ellin Horowitz, Richard Kostelanetz, and Alice Bloch and their positions on why Rinehart is a more positive figure. It goes on to refute their arguments, providing examples of Rinehart’s unchanging criminal and dishonest nature despite his multiple identities, Ellison’s use of sight imagery to establish that Rinehart has an artificial outlook on life, and the ways in which the Rinehart identity seems to attract more attention and fame than the main character’s original identity, which contradict previous assertions that Rinehart represents the benefits of anonymity. The second half addresses the arguments of Anne Cheng, William Schafer and John Wright, who promote the idea that Rinehart is more malicious than beneficial. I go on to explain how these scholars could further build on their arguments, such as how Rinehart feeds into white society’s stereotypical perception of black people, how the main character abandons the Rinehart persona out of personal values, and even how the light and color imagery describing Rinehart contrasts with the green light in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

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The Lens of Truth: A Critical Response to the Role of Rinehart in Ellison's Invisible Man

After exploring several different critical evaluations of Ralph Ellison’s novel Invisible Man, I discovered that multiple scholars paint the figure Rinehart in a positive light, believing he represents the benefits and possibility of an African-American man living in an urban environment. Other critics posited that Rinehart serves more as a representation of a lack of morality and the deception of others, but they often only mentioned this point briefly or without substantial supporting evidence. This paper aims to not only argue that Rinehart serves as a more negative figure than many scholars believe, but also to build upon the arguments of those that agree that Rinehart is a negative presence. The first half of this paper details the arguments of scholars Ellin Horowitz, Richard Kostelanetz, and Alice Bloch and their positions on why Rinehart is a more positive figure. It goes on to refute their arguments, providing examples of Rinehart’s unchanging criminal and dishonest nature despite his multiple identities, Ellison’s use of sight imagery to establish that Rinehart has an artificial outlook on life, and the ways in which the Rinehart identity seems to attract more attention and fame than the main character’s original identity, which contradict previous assertions that Rinehart represents the benefits of anonymity. The second half addresses the arguments of Anne Cheng, William Schafer and John Wright, who promote the idea that Rinehart is more malicious than beneficial. I go on to explain how these scholars could further build on their arguments, such as how Rinehart feeds into white society’s stereotypical perception of black people, how the main character abandons the Rinehart persona out of personal values, and even how the light and color imagery describing Rinehart contrasts with the green light in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.