Racism in Battle Royal by Ralph Ellison

1100 Words5 Pages
Everyday, racism is perceived as one of the most negative aspects of society. When people think of racism, they obviously see hatred, evil , and ignorance. It has been a part of world culture since recorded history and , no doubt , before that. When one thinks of racism in the United States, invariably , though not only , the struggle of the African-American is singled out. That is the main issue Ellison so powerfully addresses in his short story "Battle Royal". In it the author allows us to see the world through the eyes of a young black boy who is struggling to succeed in a predominantly white society. The thing that is absolutely essential to our understanding of the story

is the understanding of this "rich" character. In this study I will try to analyze some of his traits (invisibility-lack of indentity , blindness) and his journey from idealism to a grim realism about the racism that confronts him in the story.

All my life I had been looking for something , and everywhere I turned someone tried to tell me what it was. I was looking for myself and asking everyone except myself questions which I , and only I , could answer. It took me a long time and much painful boomeranging of my expectations to achieve a realization everyone else appears to have be born with : That I am nobody but myself. But first I had to discover that I'm an invisible man ! (Ellison 448 ) In this passage we see the boy's lack of identity . Throughout his life , the narrator lets others define who he is, and believes that he is what they tell him to be.. He refuses to ask himself : " who am I and what do I want ? " The invisibility which the narrator refers to is two fold. First, he has come to realize that others do not see him for who he...

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...d advice. The grandfather heeds him to "overcome 'em with yesses" and "agree 'em to death", which is exactly what the affluent white men have done to the main character.

They give him what he believes to be victories-the opportunity for a speech, the chance to prove his worth in the battle royal, the college scholarship-all of it, to keep him running. He finally realizes it. By studying this fascinating character which , I think, represents all blacks of that time I discovered that the prejudice is one problem that we as a society have to become more aware of. We have to get past the cover, and open up the book and read it before we judge. If people would do this it

would rid the cause to many major world problems.

Works Cited:

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

Schilb and John Clifford. Boston: Bedford, 2000.
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