"Who's laughing now?" Ralph Ellison's use and variation of the traditional Native American trickster figure within "Invisible Man"

Ayde Enriquez-Loya, University of Texas at El Paso

Abstract

Ralph Ellison's quintessential novel Invisible Man has been more influenced by the Native American tradition than previously considered. In fact, Ellison uses the traditional Native American trickster figure to demonstrate that in the grand scheme of things we are all of "two worlds," and that versus destroying or denying our original culture for our American identity, we must learn to accept and understand our dual identities in order to gain a voice, create a space for ourselves and our culture in history, and ultimately gain visibility. Chapter 1 discusses the creation of the trickster figure by illustrating the mechanisms by which Ellison's novel and essays demonstrate that he, specifically, uses the Native American trickster figure as defined by Gerald Vizenor. Chapter 2 presents a thorough analytical reading of the grandfather as the ultimate trickster figure demonstrated through the narrator's rejection and slow recognition of his past and potential future. And finally, Chapter 3 discusses Ellison's variation of the trickster motif when he creates three split off trickster figures that bring three items to the narrator: Brother Tarp brings the chain link; Brother Clifton brings the Sambo doll; and Rinehart brings the green tinted sunglasses. The three characters and the three items alone are insignificant to the invisible man, but once the narrator can recognize and understand his relationship to these figures and items, he can fully understand his identity within the larger context of America.^

Subject Area

Literature, Comparative|American Studies|Literature, American

Recommended Citation

Enriquez-Loya, Ayde, ""Who's laughing now?" Ralph Ellison's use and variation of the traditional Native American trickster figure within "Invisible Man"" (2007). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1444097.
http://digitalcommons.utep.edu/dissertations/AAI1444097

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