Prejudice in "King of the Bingo Game"

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Ralph Ellison’s “King of the Bingo Game” is the story about an unnamed black man, in the 1930’s, who is hoping to win the bingo game that is being held at the local cinema, in order win enough money to pay for his gravely ill wife to see a doctor. The central idea of this story is about race, and the inability for a person to be the master of his or her own destiny, when they live in an unfair and prejudicial system. The main character is completely alienated from the world around him. He is a black man living in a white world, a man who was born in the South but is now living in the North, and his only form of companionship is his dying wife, Laura, whom he is desperate to save. He is unable to work since he has no birth certificate—no official identity. Without a job he is unable to make his mark in the world, and if his wife dies, not only would he lose his lover but also any evidence that he ever existed. As the story progresses he loses his own awareness of his identity—“somehow he had forgotten his own name.” The author emphasizes the main character’s mistreatment in life by white society during a vivid recollection of an event in his childhood when he was chased by a train filled with “white people laughing as he ran screaming,” a hallucination which was triggered by his exploration of the “old scars” on his body. This connection between alienation and oppression highlight Ellison’s central idea. The conflict in this story can be seen when the main character fights with the two men who have come onto the stage to get the bingo wheel controller away from him. This conflict is not only symbolic of his life, but also the struggle of African Americans, during the 1930’s and 1940’s, to gain control of their lives when they... ... middle of paper ... ...eyed as the main character is mocked, being stripped of his title as “King” and made a fool. Works Cited Barnhisel, Greg. "An overview of 'King of the Bingo Game'." Short Stories for Students. Detroit: Gale, 2002. Literature Resource Center. Web. 2 Aug. 2011. Doyle, Mary Ellen. "Need of Folk: The Alienated Protagonists of Ralph Ellison's Short Fiction." CLA Journal 19.2 (Dec. 1975): 165-172. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Carol T. Gaffke. Vol. 26. Detroit: Gale Research, 1997. Literature Resource Center. Web. 31 July. 2011. Saunders, Pearl I. "Symbolism in Ralph Ellison's 'King of the Bingo Game,'." CLA Journal 20 (Sept. 1976): 35-39. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Carol T. Gaffke. Vol. 26. Detroit: Gale Research, 1997. Literature Resource Center. Web. 1 Aug. 2011.

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