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Battle Royal, by Ralph Ellison

Good Essays
Battle Royale

In “Battle Royal,” Ellison uses details of setting to create the

mood of horror and repulsion. The horror begins when the narrator

listens to a conversation between his father and grandfather, as

his grandfather lay on his death bed. “Son, after I’m gone I want

you to keep up the good fight. I never told you, but our life is

a war and I have been a traitor all my born days, a spy in the

enemy’s country ever since I give up my gun back in the

Reconstruction. Live with your head in the lion’s mouth. I want

you to overcome ‘em with yeses, undermine ‘em with grins, agree

‘em to death and destruction, let ‘em swoller you till they vomit

or bust wide open”. This statement had a great effect on

the narrator, although he wasn’t quite sure what it meant. It set

a sense of fear in him. “And whenever things went well for me I

remember my grandfather and felt guilty and uncomfortable. It was

as though I was carrying out his advice in spite of myself”(257).

The narrator didn’t plan on taking his grandfather’s advice, and

each time he found himself doing exactly that, it made him feel

guilty. “I felt guilt that in some way I was doing something that

was really against the wishes of the white folks”. This

continued path of fear and hatred are carried out throughout the

story.

Ellison gives the reader the idea of hatred and horror when

he sets the scene in the ballroom of the hotel. This is where the

“Battle Royal” was to take place. The battle room was filled with

smoke and in the center was the portable boxing ring that was to

be used for the fight. On three sides of the ring, chairs were

placed for the audience to observe the battle. These audience

members were that of an upper-class status,...

... middle of paper ...

...ing obscenities at the boys. “Pick it up,

goddamnit, pick it up!...Go on, get it”. This made the boys

feel as though they had to do what was said, they feared the

crowd more than they feared the electricity of the rug. Ellison

uses this scene to show the repulsion the audience felt toward

the fighters and the fear the fighters had of them.

Throughout this story, “Battle Royal,” Ellison creates a

mood of horror and repulsion toward the black fighters,

especially toward the narrator. From the first scene next to the

grandfather’s death bed, to the money on the rug. He takes his

readers to the fight to see just what’s taking place, not only in

the mind of the narrator, but in the minds of the upper-class

white folks as well. By describing to the readers the details of

each scene, he gives them a chilling sense of what it’s like to

be horrified and hated.
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