Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and an Essay Invisible Man
The Black Revolution has been occurring for quite some time and in many different ways. Two primary examples of the struggle and yearn for change among African Americans include Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, the autobiography of Frederick Douglass and Invisible Man, a novel written by Ralph Ellison. Although both have the same foundation, the difficult task of being black and trying to make something of yourself, many important differences exist between these works. First, the language used by the authors is strikingly dissimilar. Next, the time periods in which these pieces of literature were written have a difference of over one hundred years.
Finally, the main characters are faced with different circumstances and injustices.
First, the language and literary devices used by the two authors are very different. In his autobiography, Frederick Douglass uses a very educated language and makes his story able to be understood by the reader quite easily. It is exactly what the title states, a narrative, and tells the story of Douglass’ life in a simple, yet touching way. However, in Invisible Man, Ellison transforms the English language into something eloquent and beautiful. “Nor is my invisibility exactly a matter of a bio-chemical accident to my epidermis.
“(193) This is an example of Ellison’s wonderful mastery of language and vocabulary. Ellison also utilizes dialect in his description of his own level of Dante’s hell. In this section, he also gives reference to the strong Christian roots of African Americans and their sense of religion and belief in God. He also uses vivid imagery with the use of many adjectives describing people and places. For example, the beginning of his description of hell, “..
.I saw a beautiful girl the color of ivory pleading in a voice like my mother’s….”(197) The use of dialect and imagery gives the novel more depth and intensity and intrigues the reader.
The next difference between these two pieces of literature is in the time periods in which they were written. Frederick Douglass was born into slavery somewhere around the year 1817 and his autobiography was published in 1845. Though his is a work of fiction, Ralph Ellison writes about the story of a black man living during his time. Ralph Ellison was born in 1914 and lived most of his adult life in New York, which is where the main character in Invisible Man is living. Douglass’ story portrays the life of a black slave in the South, whereas Ellison depicts the struggles of a black man living in the eastern United States, specifically New York. Douglass is searching for freedom from slavery while Ellison’s character is struggling to establish himself as a free man and fight discrimination.
Finally, the injustices faced by the main characters in these two works are different. Douglass is faced with harsh treatment and cruel whippings from his many different owners, “I had been at my new home but one week before Mr. Covey gave me a sever whipping, cutting my back, causing blood to run, and raising ridges on my flesh as large as my little finger.”(244) However, the character in Invisible Man is faced with discrimination and being treated as if he were invisible by the white people around him. “That invisibility to which I refer occurs because of a peculiar disposition of the eyes of those with whom I come in contact.”(193)
In conclusion, the works of Douglass and Ellison portray the struggles of the black man at different periods in history.
The difference in time setting causes the main characters to face different problems and injustices. The authors also attain different levels of literary skill, making their works appealing to different readers.