The African American Struggle for Equality and Identity in Ralph Ellison's Battle Royal

The African American Struggle for Equality and Identity in Ralph Ellison's Battle Royal

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Ralph Ellison’s short story, Battle Royal, is mainly a description of the African American struggle for equality and identity. The narrator of the story is an above average youth of the African American community [Goldstein-Shirlet, 1999]. He is given an opportunity to give a speech to some of the more impressive white individuals. His expectations of being received in a positive and normal environment are significantly smashed when he is faced with the cruelty of the process he must deal with in order to achieve his task. A short analysis of the major theme found in Ellison’s Battle Royal, supported by a literary criticism dealing with the tone and style of the story.
The recurrent theme of Battle Royal is that of a struggle for one’s rights against overwhelming odds. Instances of this struggle are found throughout the story. Ellison tells the enormity of the problems faced by the African American community to assert themselves. This is done by the extreme nature of the incidents described in the Battle Royal.
At first, the boys are taken to a room where a nude woman is dancing. When the boys turn their heads away, they are yelled at for not looking. The tone of this implies that the blacks were not entitled to most of the ‘good’ things being white could bring them and that they weren’t really good enough for them. The boys then compete in the Battle Royal [Ralph Ellison Battle Royal, 2003]. This classic example of symbolism shows the fight African Americans have been putting up against an harsh system over time and how it was necessary to continue and have courage even when hope diminished. This may perhaps also represent in some small part the extent to which a united community’s harmony may be disrupted and damaged. Afte...


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Ellison’s novel presents the problems faced by African Americans in a unique manner. Through his use of the extreme tasks subjected to the blacks of his story, he manages to convey the intensity of their struggle against cruelty and all its complications [Carlson, 2000]. His story deals with the topic of the fight against racism and as such is a attack on racism in general, no matter where it might be found. When a human being is diluted because of his race, as is the case with the characters in Battle Royal, it is a disgrace to the entire human race; Ellison’s story tells of the great necessity to fight this evil at all times and under all conditions.



Works Cited

1) Goldstein-Shirlet, David. Review: Cultural Contexts of Ralph Ellison's
2) Ellison, Ralph. "Battle Royal." Literature. Vol. Four. 247-56. Print.
3) Carlson, Eric Invisible Man. 2000.

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