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An Archetypal Reading on Invisible Man

Author MaJiaJia
Tutor ZhangLi
School North China Electric Power University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Archetypal Theory biblical archetypes African-American folklores
Type Master's thesis
Year 2011
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Invisible Man, for which Ralph Ellison made seven years’great efforts, was published in 1952. Since its publication, it has been announced one of the most important and influential Afro-American novels and won numerous worldwide rewards. This novel describes the process of an African youth looking for identity from South to North in America. Numerous critics have analyzed Invisible Man from various perspectives, such as post-colonial analysis, existentialism analysis, self-identity analysis etc.Based on Frye’s Archetypal Criticism, this thesis makes an analysis of Invisible Man on two aspects: biblical archetypal analysis and African-American folklore archetypal analysis. On the one hand, the biblical archetypal study of this novel consists of three parts. The first part is about the archetypal characters in the novel. Some of the main characters in Invisible man can be related to biblical archetypal characters, such as the Adam image, the good mother image, and the wise man image, etc. The second part discusses the biblical archetypal images in the novel. Some recurring images like water, fire, apple, snake, are also closely related to the Bible. The third part explores the biblical archetypal motifs reflected in this novel. The whole process from the hero’s banishment from school to his adventure in New York and his living in basement reflects the motifs of separation, deformation, and return in the Bible. What’s more, the hero’s search for personal identity and way of life also reflects the biblical motif of despair and empty. On the other hand, this thesis makes an archetypal analysis from the Afro-American traditional archetypes, such as archetypal images, archetypal characters and archetypal motifs from folklores. The repeatedly mentioned images like rabbit, bear, and the motif of running are all archetypes from African-American folklores.Most of the literary researches on this novel focus on post-colonialism and ethnic identity, but seldom analyze archetypes in this novel. Studying this novel from the perspective of archetypal criticism can achieve the goal of interpreting literary works from multiple perspectives, which is of great significance.

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