After IM was thrown out of school, he reflects on what could have been a bright future. IM acknowledges that there was a “path placed before” him and that he “kept unswervingly” to the path, resistant to change or dwelling off of what he thought was the secret formula to success in life. IM did what he was “expected to do” because he thought that would guarantee a successful life when in fact it did not thus IM did not win the “expected reward”.
This goes to show that following a set path or formula will not be the key to success in life and this is a turning point in IM’s identity development where he realizes that life is not a formula and the world can not be won. His “distorted vision” causes him to think that success is just a formula and as he faces shock from the expulsion, he realizes how much work it truly takes to become successful, and that success does not come from a path or doing what is “expected” of him.
IM’s metaphoric “holding on” to “one of his eyes” symbolizes that he is so shocked and dismayed by this news that his vision of reality has shifted drastically to the point where he feels that his brain may “burst out” because of it. IM previously had the incorrect notion of success which caused him to be led on and thus now disappointed and dismayed. IM’s path was no longer the yellow brick road to success that he once thought it was, now that he has been kicked out of school and is being exiled to New York City.
IM sucked up to all the Whites in the south, trying “to be exactly what [he] was expected to be” in hopes of success but this failed as he was not treated any better than any other Black person. IM claimed to “had done exactly what [he] was expected to do” but this is ironic because of previous actions involving Mr. Norton and the Golden Day. IM’s misconception of success coupled with his lies are the reason why he has come to this point in his life where he has been expelled from school and does not know what to do next. IM lies to himself which continues his “blurred vision” problems because he does not even understand that he is lying to himself. The “familiar object” that IM references could symbolize many things;
one thing it could symbolize is the White people. IM is now realizing that even if he follows societal norms, he will not be successful thus he is upset at the White people who led him on to believe this. IM feels that his grandfather “was hovering over” him and “grinning triumphantly” because he realizes that his grandfather was right about success and White people. IM recalls the “grinning” because typically grinning and laughing are done when one is entertained. Black people were the entertainment for White people during that time and thus IM, although his grandfather is also Black, was the entertainment. IM had embarrassingly failed to achieve success by what he thought would have worked and now his grandfather “hovering over” him to watch his every move was “grinning”, entertained by his grandson’s failure of achieving success. IM also appears narrow-minded claiming there are no “other forms of success available to such as me”. He thinks that if he does not achieve success through this “path” and formula he established for himself, he will become a failure which is absurdly incorrect. IM’s narrow- mindness by thinking that this path would be his only route to success contributes to his identity and self-deprecation which may make him even more invisible to himself. IM has to realize that there are other routes of success besides the one he is currently on and that he needs to take a different route in order to become successful, instead of being self-deprecating as seen in this passage.