The Concept of 'Invisible People' and the Problem of Adequate Perception of the Individual

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In our society, people often become “invisible” due to their race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, or social class. A person’s identity is shaped by others’ perceptions, without others’ perceptions of who he or she is, they will feel invisible. In other words, one must discover oneself and not seek for approval because of social expectations and gender roles.

‘Girls at War’ by Chinua Achebe, a Nigerian novelist, poet, professor and critic tells the story about the main character Reginald Nwankwo and a young woman named Gladys; Gladys is aiming to volunteer to fight in the war and Reginald is repudiating her. Achebe illustrates the ideal standards of democracy and the corruption in Nigeria how men and women should act within society. Achebe’s short story ‘Girls at War’ also focuses on gender roles where social struggles that arise affecting individuals from accomplishing everyday tasks, self-identity and growth development. It is affecting individuals because of the expectations placed on him or her by society. Throughout ‘Girls at War’, there are several factors of Sprague’s article ‘From Aimé Césaire to Black Lives Matter: The ongoing impact of negritude’, that signifies factors of survival, identity and acceptance. In the ‘Girls at War’ story, the young woman, Gladys experiences an issue with gender expectations. Gender roles and society’s expectations have changed tremendously throughout history; it can be so restrained that these issues are negatively affecting one’s lifestyle, workplace, mentality and self-image.

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Black Lives Matter is a movement created in the African American community. Black Lives Matter reflects on the history and demands that Black people be treated as human beings. This call call for respect of the dignity of Black individuals, founded on historical analysis, echoes the negritude literary movement, which was hugely influential on Black culture, identity and empowerment (Ekotto, 2018). In the article, ‘From Aimé Césaire to Black Lives Matter: The ongoing impact of negritude’, Frieda Ekotto speaks at a UCLA African Studies Center. Ekotto is a professor of comparative literature and chair of the department of Afro-American and African studies at the University of Michigan. During Frieda’s discussion she points out that the Black Lives Matter movement is an extension of the struggle for dignity enunciated in Aimé Césaire’s writings on 'negritude” in the 1930s (, 2018). The Black Lives Matter movement have shaped our understanding of what establishes police brutality, but today in our society women are targeted in in similar actions as men including: shootings, racial profiling, and wrongly identified. A person can be affected in multiple ways in which he or she experiences throughout his or her daily lives.

Gladys experiences an issue of gender expectations, but does not let anyone hinder her from her duties. Frieda Eikko highlights that “This allowed Black people to see themselves through their own eyes and then tell for themselves what their own qualities consist of, she continued. The negritude movement gave Black people the ability to communicate to whites that, from now on, Blacks be asserting themselves” (International,, 2018). This is accurate because Gladys, a young woman who lives in Nigeria, has been forced to become a woman retained by an officer during her struggle for survival during the war; yet, she is determined and dedicated to execute her duties. Reginald works with the Ministry of Justice while Gladys joins Civil Defense. During Nwankwo’s first meeting with Gladys he provides her guidance on what steps she may want to take on her life’s travel. He then advises her to stay in school and do not consider of fighting for the militia because it is not for women. At this point he forces her to step out of her position because he believes the militia to be men’s duty while it was a woman’s job to go to school and study. In the meantime Gladys continues to follow her mind and did not change herself for who she wants to become in life as a person. She insisted to continue with the militia and finish what she started. Thus, this exemplifies an issue of gender roles and expectations placed on both genders, instead of noticing a Nigerian citizen fighting for what she believes in, he notices gender first without discovering who Gladys is as an individual.

In ‘Girls at War’, Achebe mentions, “That was the day he finally believed there might be something in this talk about revolution. He had seen plenty of girls and women marching and demonstrating before now” (2). In other words, he desists to see a woman perform and execute a man’s job so strong that Reginald failed to realize that there are women who takes her job seriously. This proves that Gladys is doing what she believes is right in her heart and not fret about what others think. Agreeing with Frieda Eikko’s story in the article, ‘From Aimé Césaire to Black Lives Matter: The ongoing impact of negritude’, because this is a huge issue of individuals not meeting the expectations that are placed on them through gender roles and identity. The truth is that he or she is responsible for oneself; in other words, one must focus on the idea of “self” in order to understand the “good” by focusing on staying true to oneself and not concentrate on the distractions.

He is amazed to still find her in the militia. He seems very proud of her because she has proved to him that she took her position deliberately and survived through this abominable time of war. For example, “For Black intellectuals of the past, this wasn’t the case. They had to engage with dominant discourses, which often led to their being silenced” , Ekotto said, pointing to Ralph Ellison’s narrative of the erasure experienced by Black men in his book ‘Invisible man’ (, 2018). In other words, there are people who have experienced and handled several gender roles differently in society. In ‘Invisible man’ by Ralph Ellison, who was an American novelist, literary critic and scholar tells the story of an educated Black man who has been distressed and struggles within white culture.

The language ‘Invisible man’ truly defies not only the struggles of a Black man but the physical anonymous identity of the narrator. He is nameless throughout the novel as he journeys from the South, while living in Harlem. According to the scholarly article, ‘Ralph Ellison’s Novel without Qualities’ by Timothy Parrish, he implies that “Invisible Man follows this pattern as well since it presents itself as the drama of a single individual coming to artistic consciousness” (Parrish, 2018). With that being said, the Invisible Man is determining his own identity, race and reforming his self-understanding. He is placed in one category where he is caught up living under the existing and struggles to find his true self. This proves that Gladys is fully aware and understands the philosophical aspect where one must learn to become “visible” again throughout the act of self-awareness and social tension.

Ekotto and Achebe would agree with Ralph Ellison’s story because it indicates that the invisible man was conscientious to the various life routes that society set out for him as a black man. Here, he forms an idea of what he wants to be but, realizes he was not mere important to anyone. On the other hand, Gladys ends up changing herself by enhancing her features to fit in with others. Reginald noticed that she has relinquished her role in the militia and parted in a selfish lifestyle. Gladys states “That is what you men want us to do” (Achebe, 7). In this case, this connects to when Gladys first searches Reginald car and he gets mad at her: demanding her to go to school instead of joining the militia. This is suitable because it shows that either way the female is accomplishing an act purposely by men these gender roles and expectations still exist.

Given these points, gender and social norms continues to define our expectations of behavioral expectations in the workplace. It can be seen that people who are different from previous lessons to take on these roles, will have a difficult time letting go of the patterns. For example, in the article ‘What Do Children Know About Their Futures: Do Children’s Expectations Predict Outcomes in Middle Age?’ by Björn Halleröd, a sociologist, from the University of Gothenburg states “If children’s expectations are based on stereotypes, we can expect that the factors affecting children’s expectations are the same factors that affect actual outcomes. Thus, both expectations and outcomes should be looked upon as consequences of early conditions” (Halleröd, 2). In other words, young children are affected in many ways where it can affect a child’s developmental skills. Expectations can enable younger children to approach learning opportunities more positively if it is controlled at an early stage in his or her life. If parents have clear expectations for both behavioral and social interactions it will enforce these standards.

Hence, expectations are a reflection of actual circumstances and also a cause of future outcomes (Hallerod, 3).

These points are valid because in ‘Girls at War’ the back-and-forth interactions between Reginald and Gladys it provided awareness of adult’s thinking based on responding and acting on the situation. Gladys represents the women of Nigeria based on how they are constantly judged within or outside of these gender roles. Today, expectations placed on younger children can be more effective because he or she can know the difference when addressing social issues and gender roles within their society. Most importantly, one must learn to see the world differently to fulfill his or her career based on finding a job to become the person he or she wants to be in life. A person can voice their own opinions and speak for oneself when he or she disagree or agree with issues that are placed on them.

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The Concept of ‘Invisible People’ and the Problem of Adequate Perception of the Individual. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 19, 2024, from
“The Concept of ‘Invisible People’ and the Problem of Adequate Perception of the Individual.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022,
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