Battle Royal, by Ralph Ellison

Battle Royal, by Ralph Ellison

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Battle royal is a story reflecting the post civil war era. With so many privileges and opportunities for Blacks, the future seemed promising but the "Black Codes" limited all of the so called opportunities presented to blacks. It was worst enough to have these "Black Codes" implemented in the southern states, but there were also groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, which enforced the "Black Codes" and were bent on oppressing the blacks. The story seems to be set in the late 1800's. This was a time when blacks wanted to be treated equally but were too scared to speak out because their family's welfare might be at risk if they did. In the short story Battle royal, tells his family his way to social equality. While the grandson does things a little differently.
In the story "Battle Royal" the narrator's grandfather tells the family to undermind the whites with "yeses" and "grins", he also instructs them to "agree'em to death and destruction". The grandfather felt that in order to keep the family safe and also hold on to the oppression that scars them everyday, they should put on a mask. This will keep the white man pleased and the blacks could keep there self respect because as soon as the opportunity for social equality comes they'll go for it. This didn't seem like a bad idea but it was hard for the narrator to comprehend.
Later the narrator is an educated young man in his teens. He's followed his grandfathers' words and it results in him being obedient to the views of the white men. The narrator is invited to recite a speech at a local town gathering which included politicians and town leaders. The narrator is forced to compete in a battle royal. He had to box blindfolded, get electrified by a rug filled with fake brass coins, and humiliated when it was time for him to give his speech. The problem with the boys understanding of the grandfather's ideology is that he doesn't know where his limit is. It almost seems as if he would go through anything the white men put in his way but even after that, the men tell him to correct himself when he even mentions social equality. The narrator is rewarded for his obedience with a scholarship, but the true value of the scholarship is questioned in a dream where the scholarship paper read, "To Whom It May Concern…Keep This Nigger-Boy Running.

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In the short story Battle Royal author, Ralph Ellison presented two ideologies and how they didn't work. In the early 1950's black were searching for a way to become equal. This story became popular because it showed black people what not to do. The story challenged Booker T Washington's idea of focusing on industrial education. Booker T Washington believed that, if blacks would become economically successful then they will be considered equal by the white men. This idea was shown to have some faults in the story. Even though the boy was well educated and didn't demand civil rights. He is still not treated any better than any of the other black boys at the battle royal. In fact, he's treated worst when he gave his speech because the white men felt he was out of line. Ralph Ellison is projecting that civil rights has to be the main focus of African Americans at the time in order to become equal. Another Idea implemented in the story was to be obedient and agree to whatever the white man says. In the story Ralph Ellison shows how this idea can be a negative. In the battle royal, the white men tell the boys to do gruesome things such as box each other blind folded and lay down on an electrified rug. At the end of the battle royal the boys realized they received fake coins and the narrator's scholarship seemed to just be a way to keep him running. Ralph Ellison showed both ideas to not succeed with the story being set right after the civil war when a lot of blacks were being led to believe they were getting somewhere when in fact they were just running in circles.
Battle royal is a story reflecting the times not just right after the civil war but all the way up to the time the story was written. It was something the people of that time needed to hear and that's why it was so popular. It enlightened that nothing would happen if civil rights was not the main focus.



Works Cited
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