Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts

First Advisor

Dr. Daryl Cumber Dance


J. Saunders Redding comments that "Existentialism is no philosophy to accommodate the reality of Negro life" (209). However, Ralph Ellison's concern in Invisible Man to explore his protagonist's freedom and the ways in which he deceives himself about his freedom invites a comparison with the ontological premises of Jean-Paul Sartre's Being and Nothingness, particularly his concept of "bad faith," in which individuals accept the identities that existing power structures force upon them. Both writers articulate the nature of selfhood in the modern world, and how easily one's true identity is lost when faced with absolute existential freedom. While Ellison was not a student of existential philosophy, the preoccupation of both writers with the freedom of the individual consciousness and the inability to maintain that freedom suggests that the two were responding to the same historical and cultural milieu.