Ralph him of his illusions” (Ellison, 1995,

Ralph Ellison’s  Invisible Man shows a scene at the end of Chapter 25 of where the narrator, IM, burns his documents within his briefcase. This seemingly depicts the beginning of the end of the IM we have read about, where IM is no longer the person he once was. He then dreams of his many adversaries such as Ras, Jack, Bledsoe, and others, attempting to “free him of his illusions” (Ellison, 1995, p. 569). This scene is notable as it show the many reoccuring themes of invisibility and identity as well as themes of disillusionment in addition to important symbols that are prevalent throughout the biography of IM’s story which define IM’s identity.In the scene where IM first wakes up due to pangs of hunger, he attempts to escape the dark space in which he fell into from the manhole. He burns the papers within his briefcase to serve as light to find a way out of the dark basement, burning them in the following order: his high-school diploma, Clifton’s doll,  the anonymous letter and threat he had received, and the slip of paper Jack had written the narrator’s Brotherhood name. These pieces of paper serve as symbols within the history of IM’s narrative: the high-school diploma to which he “applied one precious match with a feeling of remote irony” (Ellison, 1995, p. 567), was the first to burn. Ellison purposefully incorporates symbolism in this scene as it showcases the theme of identity and the idea of individuality which IM is so desperately confused to find; The burning of the diploma serves as an allegory to the idea of which by burning the high-school diploma for light, the light implies IM’s illumination in the case of finding his true self and removing himself from those who wish to change his identity to be a model African American person. Ironically, the one thing that IM had thought he had truly valued was the first thing to burn. As such, we can also relate IM’s burning of the diploma as a symbol representing IM’s struggle to find his own identity.IM then burns the next object: the Sambo doll. The Sambo doll, which is a caricature of a stereotypical, dark-skinned black man, is first seen in chapter 20, where Tod Clifton, an ex-member of the Brotherhood, proclaims when he sells them: “What makes him happy, what makes his dance… And only twenty five cents, the brotherly two bits of a dollar because he wants me to eat. It gives him pleasure to see me eat.” (Ellison, 1995, p.432-433). The Sambo doll refers to the derogatory term “sambo”,  which profiles African American males as “subservient, loyal, lazy, and content servants”. The word also draws its influence from a children’s story book, known as “The Story of Little Black Sambo” as well as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery book, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, which “gave the term more of its negative connection” (Chandler, 1).  The Sambo doll represents blatant racism, as it portrays a stereotype  that was forcefully brought out to light by Tod Clifton, who was performing his demeaning presentation of the Sambo doll, to IM. This finally forces IM to realize that prejudice against black people will never be completely forgotten. By burning the racist Sambo doll, this action symbolizes the narrator removing himself from the notion of self-disparagement, bringing the concept of the theme of disillusionment to a full circle as the narrator finally realizes he is in power of deciding to be subjected to this form of self-discrimination.Lastly, IM burns the slip of paper, which contains his Brotherhood name and given by Jack, and the anonymous letter he received as his final source of light to find a way out of the dark basement. The slip of paper, which contained his Brotherhood name, connected to the theme of identity and represented his newfound identity amongst the Brotherhood, giving him a new cause and passion for the narrator. In contrast, the anonymous letter related to the theme of invisibility; IM’s prowess at speeches drew attention for the Brotherhood and its movement, but would eventually prove that too much attention was bad, as IM was notified from the letter: “Do not go too fast. Keep working for the people but remember that you are one of us… this is a white man’s world…” (Ellison, 1995, p.383). These two contrasting objects represent the significance of identity and invisibility within the narrator’s biography; IM’s identity has caused him to become disliked and thought of as unruly, and the visibility which IM has gained through his worked has put him in predicament where IM has to find the balance between too much visibility and too much invisibility. A perfect example of where IM faces such problems, is seen in IM’s interaction with Brother Westrum, where he accuses the narrator of being an “opportunist… using the Brotherhood movement to advance his own selfish interests” (Ellison, 1995, p. 400). With the simultaneous burning of both papers, IM realizes that he had been fooled by Jack and the Brotherhood, who had used him to further their own purposes on a grander scheme of things and deceived the black community of New York that the Brotherhood would help them, again bring to attention the theme of disillusionment. The narrator passes out in a fit of rage that he had been conned by Jack. IM begins to dream of all his enemies as he “lay the prisoner of a group consisting of Jack and old Emerson and Bledsoe and Norton and Ras and the school superintendent and a number of others who I failed to recognize, but all of whom had run me… they were demanding I return to them and were annoyed with my refusal..” (Ellison, 1995, p.569). Jack and the rest of IM’s enemies then proceed to castrate him in his dream, stating that IM was now liberated from these “illusions”. They then ask how it feels to “be free of illusions”. Despite this, IM is undeterred by this, responding that it was “painful and empty”. This shows the importance of IM’s growth as a character; once blindly loyal to Brotherhood, he is now enlightened and able to escape these “illusions” of which are irrational faith and belief in others. This dream is significant as it shows that IM has moved on from his past and is no longer tied down by the idea of illusion, seemingly to connect with the theme of disillusionment.Overall, Ralph Ellison’s scene in Chapter 25 is significant as it depicts the repetitive use of the themes of invisibility, identity, and disillusionment symbolized through the burning of the papers which serve as symbols to his liberation from those who try to define his identity.  These themes of invisibility, identity, and disillusionment all lead to the main point; the theme of struggling to find one’s true self. By burning these documents, it seems that IM is finally free from these troubles.