In "Invisible Man," by Ralph Ellison, one central question that arises and is evident throughout the novel is "who am I?" The main character is searching for his identity while fighting through racial bias and discrimination. The narrator, who is not valued enough to be named, struggles for his individualism and identity. In a world that is dominated by whites, the narrator is categorized by his skin color, his education as well as his membership to the Brotherhood.
Ellison shows that the narrator is discriminated against because of his skin color. The black coloring of the narrator's skin is what covers his individuality; entrapping him behind a mask. The narrator uses the mask as a protective form of self-defense and resistance to the white dominated world. The narrator's skin color has stifled his individual complexity and his ability to contribute to society. Ultimately, he is not viewed as an individual but someone who is the same as all others sharing black skin coloring. In the prologue, the narrator reinforces his frustration saying, "I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination-indeed, everything and anything accept me. The narrator has been in search of himself but never found it" (Ellison, p. 3). .
In "Invisible Man," skin color creats a divided society. Dr. Bledsoe scolded the narrator for taking Mr. Norton around blacks implying that he should have known better than to mix with "those" kind of people. Being called "nigger" as he walks freely also illustrates how the narrator was only free to be a man associated with others who shared the same skin color not white people. Throughout the story, the narrator is constantly reminded of his grandfather's lasting words and the importance to become compliant to the racism of the world.