Power-Struggle, Panopticism, and Hegemony in Ellison’s Invisible Man

Document Type: Original Article


Graduate Student of English Language and Literature, Faculty of Humanities, Semnan University, Semnan, Iran


Ralph Ellison’s acclaimed novel and his sole masterpiece, Invisible Man, is said to have been one of the world’s greatest African-American novels. It is replete with discussions of racial discrimination, identity crisis and studies of systematic (racial) exploitations. The depictions are coalesced with existential accounts of bodily sensations and struggles with the self and the society. But a more profound look at the context and deep structure of this novel can reveal its ideological and social critiques as well. In fact, Ellison had arguably acquired a well-versed knowledge regarding power-struggles within social systems prior to the development of this lengthy novel. Such issues, then, appear to be among the sidelights of this work. Ellison explores many political discussions of his predecessors and sometimes prophetically unearths many to-be-discovered issues and theories, years before their actual coinages by theoreticians and sociologists like Michel Foucault. With this hindsight, this article tries to study the novel’s oblique or direct references to social ideologies, hegemonies, and the theory of Panopticism at stake.