The search of an identity leads people to do different things in trying to find out what makes them who they are in life. Often, people have to go through different experiences, some of which are not pleasant, but all of which provide important life lessons. As a person opens up to the world around him, he transforms from being a person without much knowledge in life, and who trusts others without question, to being a person who takes the time to reflect about his actions. With the new knowledge and experiences he has acquired, the person no longer trusts people and does what they request or demand of him without question. People with no clear identity and no knowledge of who they are give others the chance to form their identity. This often creates a misunderstanding between the person and the other people, and it leads to more confusion. The invisible man tells the story of a man who has gained different titles in his life, has been given different names by people, and has been confused for different characters, but who end up remaining nameless and in continual search for who he is as he moves from one level of awareness to the other.
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison is a story of a man who thinks that he is invisible to the rest of the society. It is more a story of someone in search of an identity, yet who does not know what to do until he finds that identity. As a young man, the narrator thinks that he can find his identity by conforming to the ways of the society. He tries pleasing those he considers superior, only for them to mock him later. This happens when he writes and reads a speech praising the white man. The white man in turn forces him to do humiliating things, and he is not interested in what the narrator has to say about him because he already knows it. He tries fighting against injustice, but he realizes that he is fighting a war that he cannot win on his own. During different times in his life, the narrator encounters many people but they do not bother to know his name. They give him the identity they think suits him. Some refer to him as a reverend while others call him a gambler. He is sometimes mistaken for a fink and a unionist. Some think that he is a pimp while others think that he is a lover or a rapist. With such confusing titles, he remains unidentified, even to himself.
In the poem Mr. Cogito and the Imagination by Zbigniew Herbert, the speaker in the poem lives unconventionally, more like the narrator in the invisible man. He does not find any relevance to the concert music, which is false to his ears. He does not see any meaning in learning about mythologies. Education has no real significance in his life. He prefers to live his own life under his own terms. His house does not have to look like other people’s houses, and he can live without the simple pleasures. He likes it when things remain the same, and when they remain as they are. When the narrator decides to live in the manhole, he does so because living the conventional life no longer pleases or benefits him. He has tried living life according to other people’s standards but this has only led him to trouble and it has caused him much suffering. In the manhole, the education that he had acquired as a model student ceases to make any sense to him. The grounds in the college were beautiful, but they did not benefit him. The narrator does not trust people, which is in contrast to his character as a younger person. He has experienced much in his life, and he can no longer excuse the actions of the white man. This is contrary to what he had done previously, when he excused the white people for making him fight when naked in front of them.
The poem Mr. Cogito’s Heraldic Meditations, tells of the changes that can happen in the course of time. It describes something, which was once powerful and towered above all. It could be someone who was once a powerful and majestic as an eagle, and who had much influence. However, as time passed, this changed and the person is now faceless. He or she is blind and empty. The person who was once an eagle becomes a snail, and he carries his home wherever he goes. He is not detached to the things of the world, and he finds a place to stay wherever he goes. This is much like the narrator, who once lived in the south. There was much discrimination and racism there, and the black people had to endure a lot of humiliation and shame. When the narrator moved to the north, he found some changes in the way blacks were treated. Though they had some level of freedom, and they could interact more freely with the white people, they continued to face different forms of discrimination.
The narrator found a home in the north because he met other black people. He thought that he had found a home when the brotherhood embraced him. However, he was wrong. His race determined his home, and he continued facing discrimination wherever he went. The narrator lives an uncertain future. The narrator transformed from being a person of influence while in the south. He had read a speech that had made others recognize him, and he even had a scholarship to college. However, his move north made him realize that he was no one, and he could not get a lot of influence. His situation had changed when he was in the brotherhood, but this changed once the brotherhood denied him and refused to work with him.