Battle Royal

Good Essays
The symbols and language used in “Battle Royal” allow readers to understand the concept of being black in America; fighting for equality. Symbols such as the white blindfold, stripper, and battle itself all give a suggestion about how the unnamed protagonist felt, but more importantly, Ralph Ellison’s “Battle Royal” depicts the difficult struggles facing the black man in what’s supposed to be a post-slavery era. Indeed, the narrator comes from a long line of black men who’ve felt the difficult struggles while trying to live alongside the white people. The protagonist speaks of his grandparents, who felt after the civil war, they were free, but on his deathbed, however, the grandfather spoke to the narrator’s father, telling the protagonist’s father that he himself felt like a traitor. He advised the narrator’s father to subvert the whites. The narrator recalls a speech he had given in high school—one that spoke of ways to advance as a black man in America. With great success, the protagonist is invited to deliver this speech to his community’s white citizens. Upon arriving, the narrator is told to take part in what is called a battle royal; believing its part of the entertainment, the narrator agrees to take part. The white men then blindfold the youths and order them to begin fighting each other. The narrator lasts until the last round, when he suffers a loss. After the men have removed the blindfolds, they lead the black men to a rug covered with coins and bills. The boys dive for the money, but discover that an electric current runs through the rug. Having endured the battle royal, and when it comes time for the narrator to give his speech, the white men all laugh and ignore him. When the narrator accidently says “social equali... ... middle of paper ... eyes off of the naked women dancing. The outbursts towards the black men is farther evidence that during that time, blacks had little to no say and had not felt equal to their white counterparts. Perhaps the most conspicuous symbol of all is the battle itself. The white men pitted a group of black men against each other; the black men were in a no win situation. Instead of expressing their displeasure with the white men, the black men were forced to take their anger out on each other. The narrator also seems to seek approval by the white men; remembering his speech as he fights the other men. According to the protagonist: Should I try to win against the voice out there? Would not this go against my speech, and was not this a moment for humility, for nonresistance?” ( ). He’s worried about defying the white men; letting them down by not performing well enough.
Get Access