Battle Royal, by Ralph Ellison

1350 Words6 Pages
Ellison’s Powerful Battle Royal

I felt a wave of irrational guilt and fear. My teeth chattered, my skin turned to goose flesh, my knees knocked. Yet I was strongly attracted and looked in spite of myself. Had the price of looking been blindness, I would have looked. (Ellison 939)

These insightful words written by Ralph Ellison in the powerful short story "Battle Royal," which later became the first chapter in the critically acclaimed novel Invisible Man, convey the repressed desires of the maligned African American spirit, in an age of oppression ruled by ignorance and fear. In "Battle Royal" Ellison utilizes remarkable powers of perception to deliver a shocking and thought-provoking dissertation on the plight of the African American culture, through the inhumane scourge of slavery to the sinful separation of segregation. "Battle Royal" solidified Ellison's position as an enlightened commentator on African American issues, while serving as a precursor to what is arguably his best work, Invisible Man. "Battle Royal" is an expertly crafted allegory illustrating the African American community's painful pilgrimage to overcome the oppressive attitudes and unfounded fears of an overtly racist and segregated South.

Ellison uses the horrifying experiences of the narrator, a young black man struggling to overcome racism, as a symbol to emphasize the barbaric treatment endured by African Americans in the early 1900's. "Battle Royal" begins with a revelation by the narrator concerning a message delivered by his grandfather on his deathbed. The dying grandfather advises, "Live with your head in the lion's mouth. I want you to overcome'em with yeses, undermine'em with grins, agree'em to dea...

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...Ralph Ellison with his well-crafted short story. When viewed as an allegory for the harsh treatment of African Americans in a divided South "Battle Royal" becomes a powerful commentary on social responsibility, and a rally cry for the black community to unite.

Works Cited

Du Bois, W.E.B. "Of Mr. Booker T. Washington." Making Literature

Matter. Ed. John Schilb and John Clifford. Boston: Bedford,

2000. 952-56.

Ellison, Ralph. "Battle Royal." Making Literature Matter. Ed. John

Schilb and John Clifford. Boston: Bedford, 2000. 937-48.

Mydral, Gunnar. "Social Equality." Making Literature Matter. Ed. John

Schilb and John Clifford. Boston: Bedford, 2000. 956-59.

Washington, Booker T. "Atlanta Exposition Address." Making Literature

Matter. Ed. John Schilb and John Clifford. Boston: Bedford,

2000. 948-51.

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