What does it mean to be invisible?

What does it mean to be invisible? How can you raise awareness about invisible populations?


To be invisible does not only mean to be unseen. Being unnoticed or ignored can also qualify as being invisible. Invisible people are all around us. We either choose to ignore these people or we really haven't noticed them. There are examples of invisibility in many works of literature. Whether these books are fiction or nonfiction, the characters still go through the same hardships of feeling invisible to society. Such works include Things Not Seen, by Andrew Clements, Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison, and the article Child homelessness at record high, report says, "call to action" for states, adapted by Newsela. These sources have several examples of characters or even real people who feel invisible to the people around them. The lives of these people are the true meaning of invisibility.

Things Not Seen- Source #1

In the book, Things Not Seen, by Andrew Clements, Bobby Phillips is a 15 year old boy who wakes up one day to find himself invisible. Since there are many decisions Bobby is faced with about what to do now and how to cure himself, he finds the other people in his life making all his decisions for him. His dad, a physicist, and his friend's dad, Dr. Van Dorn are the ones trying to figure out a scientific explanation for Bobby's invisibility. In one part of the book, Bobby's dad is thinking of possible ways to solve Bobby's problem when Bobby thinks, "It's my life! You can't leave me out of the decisions about my own life! You are not in charge here!” (Clements 221). This relates to invisibility because the author hinted at the idea that Bobby was feeling invisible in more ways than just physically in the book. Instead of being unable to see, he also finds the people trying to help him making his life decisions without consulting him. In another part of the book Things Not Seen, by Andrew Clements, Bobby begins a quest to locate other people who may have turned invisible like him by the electric blanket. His search leads him to the legal department of Sears because the electric blanket that turned him invisible was from Sears. After getting a list of people who returned the blanket, Bobby calls the 59th person on the list and finds what he was looking for. He calls a man who bought the blanket for his daughter. When Bobby asks where his daughter is, the man claims that she is "just... gone." Bobby believes this girl may have turned invisible like him, and gets her phone number after looking up an email the girl's father gave him. He calls her and finds out she did turn invisible like him, and ran away from home because she couldn't tell her parents about it. When Bobby later finds a cure to his invisibility and turns visible again, Sheila tells him to forget he ever met her and that she doesn't want to be visible again. Her belief was that she was already turning invisible to the people around her before the day she disappeared. She stated the reasons for her invisibility, which were, "booze, drugs, [and] maybe 3 more bad boyfriends-that would have done it. I was already disappearing, a little bit at a time." Another reason Sheila wanted to stay invisible was because she didn't want to face the challenges of being visible again. She stated she didn't want to start worrying about her "weight, hair, and all that junk again." Sheila had adapted to her lifestyle in which no one had been able to see her. Instead of working at an office, she worked at home. When out in public, she wore those black veils you see on Muslim women so that no one would be able to see any part of her body (Clements 190). This relates to invisibility because, unlike Bobby, Sheila had coped with her invisibility and hadn't done anything about it. She didn't want to go back to being visible again because she was already turning invisible to society before disappearing. This is another part in the book where the author portrayed a character being invisible in more ways than just physically.

Homeless Children- Source #2

In the article, Child homelessness at record high, report says, "call to action" for states, adapted by Newsela, it is implied that homeless children are an unnoticed population. One way these children are invisible is by sleeping every night in various places and not being noticed by the government or even common people. In the text, it says homeless children often sleep with their families at their friends’ houses, 24 hour diners, and even motel rooms. Another way these kids are invisible is they are not even classified as homeless by the HUD. According to the article, “The HUD’s definition of homeless excludes more than a million homeless kids.” Lastly, these children are also invisible because they are kids. In the text, Ed Walz explains that most homeless kids “can’t get the full range of shelter services, food assistance and counseling to manage the trauma of being homeless — and they can’t get it because they’re kids.” Patricia Nix-Hodes says, “People are surprised that homelessness impacts children so much. It tends to be less visible. People call it the hidden homelessness” (Newsela 1-3). This relates to invisibility because these kids are invisible to the general public. Even though they are homeless, the fact that they are kids makes them unnoticed or ignored even more.

Invisible Man- Source #3

In an excerpt from the book Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison, he states, “I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allen Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, flesh and bone, fiber and liquids — and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination — indeed, everything and anything except me” (Ellison 3). This relates to invisibility because the narrator seems to be a man who thinks he is invisible, even though people can see him. He thinks this because he is often ignored and never looked at. People refuse to see him, and he thinks that people look at him, but don’t actually notice him or acknowledge his presence.


As you can see, invisibility has impacted many people in huge ways. Being invisible makes them feel unnoticed, hidden, and ignored. This is the true definition of being invisible, along with being unseen. We can raise awareness about invisible populations by spreading the word. Telling people that such people need our help will finally make them feel like they exist. The only way to make these people visible again is to end their invisibility. When they feel like they exist again, we will have achieved our goal and learn how being invisible affected these wonderful people. Put a stop to invisibility and bring a smile to a now visible face.

Works Cited

  1. Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. New York: Vintage International, 1995. Print.
  2. Clements, Andrew. Things Not Seen. New York: Philomel, 2002. Print.
  3. "Child Homelessness at Record High, Report Says, "call to Action" for States." Newsela. N.p., n.d. Web. Apr. 2015.