Invisible Man

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The Brief Case Symbol Analysis

The Brief Case Symbol Icon
The narrator’s brief case is his literal “baggage.” Presented in the first chapter after making his graduation speech, the brief case travels with the narrator throughout the novel, accumulating the signs of the narrator’s past. The brief case becomes a sign of the changeability of the narrator’s identity: he, like the brief case, is simply a vessel for the events have come to occupy his body and mind. At the novel’s end, the narrator is forced to burn most of the brief case’s contents in order create a light to see by. This act is a recognition that the past must be reckoned with in order to move forward into the future.
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The Brief Case Symbol Timeline in Invisible Man

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Brief Case appears in Invisible Man. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...town leaders shower him with applause. The school superintendent presents the narrator with a calfskin brief case . He is told to look inside the brief case and discovers a scholarship to... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Dreams and the Unconscious Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...that night he has a dream of his grandfather, who tells him to open the brief case and look inside. He finds an envelope with the state seal: inside the envelope is... (full context)
Chapter 15
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
...the narrator leaves the apartment, he puts the pieces of the coin bank in his brief case . The narrator is determined to get rid of the coin bank as soon as... (full context)
Chapter 24
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...go uptown, the drunken Sybil tries to convince him to stay. The narrator packs his brief case , noticing that the contents have become quite heavy. The narrator takes Sybil out to... (full context)
Chapter 25
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
...the street with blue sparks. The narrator gets up, and a man hands him his brief case . (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
...is wearing several hats and several pairs of suspenders. The men look at the narrator’s brief case and assume that he has filled it with his own loot. The brief case is... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
...light the fire and rush down the stairs. The narrator realizes that he’s left his brief case up with the fire and runs back upstairs, telling himself he’s had it too long... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
...to join him on a raid of Harlem’s armory. Seeing Ras, the narrator searches his brief case for his dark-lensed glasses, only to find that they’ve been crushed. Suddenly, the narrator finds... (full context)
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Power and Self-Interest Theme Icon
...men are armed with bats. The men ask the narrator what he has in his brief case , and the narrator instinctively runs from them. Running from the men, the narrator falls... (full context)
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Ambition and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...until he finds a dropped book of matches. The narrator is forced to open his brief case to use the paper inside for a torch. He begins by burning his high school... (full context)