Invisible Man

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The Dark-Lensed Glasses Symbol Analysis

The Dark-Lensed Glasses Symbol Icon
When the narrator puts on the dark-lensed glasses, the citizens of Harlem immediately begin to mistake him for a man named Rinehart. The glasses are a sign of the unexpected fluidity of identity. For instance, after a few moments of wearing the glasses, the narrator finds himself acting differently, beginning the play the role of the man for whom he has been mistaken. The narrator finds it easier than he expected to inhabit a new role, a sign of the many unexplored possibilities that belong to every person. However, the glasses have their limits, as the narrator finds them crushed later during the Harlem riot.

The Dark-Lensed Glasses Quotes in Invisible Man

The Invisible Man quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Dark-Lensed Glasses. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Race and Racism Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of Invisible Man published in 1995.
Chapter 23 Quotes

His world was possibility and he knew it. He was years ahead of me and I was a fool…The world in which we lived was without boundaries. A vast seething, hot world of fluidity, and Rine the rascal was at home. Perhaps only Rine the rascal was at home in it.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Rinehart
Related Symbols: The Dark-Lensed Glasses
Page Number: 498
Explanation and Analysis:

After being harassed by followers of Ras the Exhorter, the narrator decides to buy a pair of dark-lensed glasses to wear as a disguise. His plan does not work exactly as intended, however, because the people of Harlem now all assume that he is Rinehart, a shady yet beloved character who variously takes on the personas of pimp, gambler, and preacher. In this passage the narrator reflects on the impression he has gained of Rinehart's life through the reactions of people who have assumed he is Rinehart. Although the narrator knows that Rinehart is a "rascal," he concedes that Rinehart's dishonesty and fluid identity allow him to experience the world as a place of endless possibility. The narrator concludes half-ironically that Rinehart "was years ahead of me and I was a fool." 

Once again, the narrator is seduced by the reinvention of identity, a process that requires a person's true identity to remain forgotten or "invisible." Although the narrator condemns the ways in which Rinehart misleads people, he has come to believe that the world is suited to such fluidity and dishonesty. Having become disillusioned with the idea that the world is either fair or predictable, the narrator admits that in order to survive in the "vast seething, hot world of fluidity," perhaps it is best to operate in the chameleon-like fashion of Rinehart. 


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The Dark-Lensed Glasses Symbol Timeline in Invisible Man

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Dark-Lensed Glasses appears in Invisible Man. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 23
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
...hail a cab, the narrator notices three men in suits, all of whom are wearing dark-lensed glasses . The narrator is suddenly struck with an idea. He runs into a drugstore and... (full context)
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
Walking down the street in his new dark glasses , the narrator is approached by a beautiful woman. The woman has mistaken him for... (full context)
Chapter 25
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Identity and Invisibility Theme Icon
...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 himself trapped in... (full context)