Life for African Americans in the “Land of the Free” has always been a struggle. Although our country prides itself with our many ideals and beliefs of this being the Land of Opportunity, where all men are created equal, that has not been the case for African Americans. This is especially true for those living in the first 50 years of the 1900’s (from which these stories have been set in). This harsh reality is portrayed in “Battle Royal” by Ralph Ellison (written in 1952) and in “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin (written in 1957). These short stories contain similar themes of the struggles in achieving goals with so many obstacles set in place, of the importance of family and of the significance of education. All of these components contribute to the fact in both stories, “Battle Royal” and “Sonny’s Blues”, there are many scenes that reveal the hindrances and limitations that African Americans faced even with the support of family; all which in turn emphasized the horrible reality of lives for African Americans.
Both short stories “Battle Royal” and “Sonny’s Blues” have main characters attempting to better their lives and futures. But along the way of reaching their goals, certain problems stand in the way of getting success.
An example of this comes from the story “Battle Royal”. In this story the main character (narrator), a bright and intelligent young man, has just graduated high school. At his high school graduation, he delivered a speech that was so highly praised that he was asked to give it again in front of an audience of the community’s leading white citizens. But before he was able to convey his speech, he is asked to take part in the battle...
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...go. At least, I ain’t learning nothing you’d want me to learn.” (Baldwin 375). Sonny would have had a better chance in life with education. If he had dedicated himself to school he may have been able to reach his goal of becoming a musician much sooner.
In conclusion, there are many passages in “Battle Royal” and “Sonny’s Blues” that expose the hindrances and limitations that African Americans faced even with the support of family; all of which in turn emphasized the awful reality of lives for African Americans. These short stories, although fictional, are able to portray actual realities of life for African Americans in this part of history. The main elements of these stories that exemplified this point were through the examples of the struggles in achieving goals, how family can make or break a person’s life and future and of what education is able to symbolize.
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