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Ralph Ellison – Invisible Man

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The narrator is the key and main character in Ralph Ellison’s eloquent novel, Invisible Man.
Mr. Ellison’s portrayal of the narrator is colorful, meaningful, one that can withstand time and identifiable for all. This portrayal transcends all color barriers as well as any socioeconomic background. It was masterful of Mr. Ellison to highlight a young man in his prime and build a story around his coming of age. Any one of us can relate to how it is to be away from home for the first time in your life and you feel you are an adult, a person that can make their own decisions, be accountable, responsible, and trustworthy all on the premise of who you are, yourself. For some of us it begins with the experience of college, some it may happen a little sooner or perhaps a little later. For me, it was later. I had just recently completed a college program in downtown Chicago and landed my first real job. It was acquired not through any linkage to any work study program from school or helping out friends of relatives or anyone I personally knew. This was the real deal. I was working for a huge international insurance company by the name of INA. They were known for their property and casualty underwriting business. Soon after I came on board, INA was merged to form a new and bigger company, CIGNA. I had hit the big time! I was hired to assist a gentleman by the name of John Anderson who lived in Elmhurst, Illinois. I bonded with him immediately upon interviewing with him, and I was offered the job before I left the interview. I was elated. The pay was great and it afforded me to become even more independent by getting my own apartment. I enjoyed my position. Life was great, for a while. I respected my boss and had a great rapport with him and others within the office. My boss, on the other hand, was not liked by many in our office. He was a high producer and others were envious of him. It was rumored that our division was being bought out by an outside company. John and I would be placed elsewhere in the company. Well it happened. I was to work for one of the people that didn’t care for my former boss and he let me know it, every single day. When I assumed the role I was told that it was an opportunity for me to do different things. Here I am an educated woman with work experience, knowledge, expertise and a proven track record and I was being asked to take minutes at meetings whereas before I was underwriting accounts for clients. Not just small clients, either. These were $10 Million clients that I was responsible for as well as a budget, an expense account, and access to a company car. I could not believe this. When I inquired as to what was going on, I was told that management wanted to see me in other roles, to try to expand my knowledge base. Does this sound familiar? Maybe like the narrator being banished to assume the role of the women’s empowerment area far from the main arena where he was originally hired on to build awareness within the community, in Harlem. I was frustrated, just like the narrator. I had come into a company and did everything I was asked to do and now this. As hard as I tried, I could not get straight answers. I had surmised that my current boss, for his own personal reasons, just didn’t care for me. Even though I assumed my new role with eagerness, it was a lost cause. I believed them when they said I would assume roles that would expand my skills and knowledge. Yeah, right. What was I to do? I needed the job. By now, I was married with a small child and one on the way. I had to wait it out. I had to outsmart my boss. I would have my chance to come full circle, so I had to be patient. As life and God would have it, opportunity came my way, almost three years later. I had recently renewed acquaintances with some school friends and through them was connected with an opportunity for a position at a new company. This position was closer to home, paid more money and would give me an opportunity to start using skills that I hadn’t used in quite some time. I was excited again. I felt as though life was coming around again in my direction. I took away from that experience that once I stopped feeling good about what I was originally hired on to do in any role, I would waste no time in moving on. I never again allowed an employer to wreak havoc on my thoughts of myself. This was a valuable lesson as well as a costly one. While I was being patient, I allowed self-pity and doubt to linger. It was a developing time for me. I did move on and learned that no one has the right to tell you what your worth is. I also never allowed myself to be used in such a way that I didn’t feel good about what I was doing. Thank God I was able to move on and leave behind the burden of self-doubt of my own worth.

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