Masks: Beauty or Deception?

Antonio Austin picture

In Ralph Ellison’s, The Invisible Man, there is an overarching theme of masks. When I think of a mask, I often think of it as an accessory for a special event. Within the context of this book masks are used to hide shocking facts or characteristics about individuals whom are being portrayed.

In this picture, from “The Masks” episode of “Twilight Zone” you see this screenshot of four individuals with disconcerting countenances upon their faces. Their faces are seen as depressing, jovial, serious, and unentertained, yet each one of these individuals are all holding a mask. The masks that each individual is holding seem to actually be different from the emotion that they are expressing upon their face. However, most of these masks are noticeably angry and very serious. The masks are not only just angry, but are also very distorted in comparison to the human face. All of the individuals are also wearing nice clothing, which leads me to believe that they may be a well off or affluent members in society. These people also look as though they are lifeless, functioning in a robotic and in a habitual manner.

The masks that are seen within this picture can be related to Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, most distinctly regarding the character Dr. Bledsoe. Dr. Bledsoe puts up a façade of being a very prestigious, dedicated, and helpful president of the Narrator’s college, however he proves to be like the individuals that I saw within this image; fake, lifeless and wearing masks. Dr. Bledsoe had many different masks during is tenure within the book, such a loyal servant for the white community. This masks is seen when Dr. Bledsoe is rebuking the Narrator for taking Mr. Norton into the black community that and visiting the likes of people such as Trueblood. He ridicules the author because he should have should have shown him the things that he should be seeing. His constantly made sure that he was a serving and appeasing the white community by using the role of being a “good nigger.” Bledsoe also mentioned how he would not let anyone take his title or status away from him no matter other individual’s costs.

Another memorable mask that is seen in Invisible Man was when Dr. Bledsoe tricked the young and naïve Narrator into thinking that he was reprimanding him by sending him to work, with the goal of returning to school. Dr. Bledsoe showed this mask of betrayal by writing the author letters to members of the Board of Trustees of the University in order to help him find a job. However, this was not the case, and sent the Narrator on long journey within the book.

The use of masks is seen not only in this image, but also throughout Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, as a form of manipulation and arguably as a means of adaptation for some characters.


2006. Friday Child’s JournalWeb. 25 Feb 2013.            <  pope.jpg>.

Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. New York: Random House, 1980. Print.

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