The Struggle for Equality and Identity in Ralph Ellison's Battle Royal

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Ralph Ellison’s short story, Battle Royal, is mainly a description of the African American struggle for equality and identity. The narrator of the story is an above average youth of the African American community [Goldstein-Shirlet, 1999]. He is given an opportunity to give a speech to some of the more prestigious white individuals. His expectations of being received in a positive and normal environment are drastically dashed when he is faced with the severity of the process he must deal with in order to accomplish his task. The continuing theme of Battle Royal is that of a struggle for one’s rights against great odds. Instances of this struggle are found throughout the story. Ellison highlights the vastness of the problems faced by the African American community to claim themselves. This is done by the extreme nature of the incidents described in the Battle Royal. A short analysis of the major theme found in Ellison’s Battle Royal, supported by a literary criticism dealing with the tone and style of the story.

At first, the boys are taken to a room where a nude woman is dancing. When the boys turn their heads away, they are yelled at for not looking. The tone of the rebuke implies that the blacks were not entitled to most of the ‘good’ things being white could bring them and that they weren’t really good enough for them. The boys then compete in the Battle Royal. This classic example of symbolism shows the fight African Americans have been putting up against an unfair system over time and how it was necessary to persevere and have courage even when hope diminished. The boys fiercely beat one another. This may perhaps also represent in some small part the extent to which a united community’s harmony may be disrupted and damaged...

... middle of paper ... a unique manner. Through his use of the extreme tasks subjected to the blacks of his story, he manages to convey the intensity of their struggle against cruelty and all its complications [Carlson, 2000]. His story deals with the topic of the fight against racism and as such is an attack on racism in general, no matter where it might be found. When a human being is underestimated because of his race, as is the case with the characters in Battle Royal, it is a disgrace to the entire human race; Ellison’s story tells of the great necessity to fight this evil at all times and under all conditions.

Works Cited

Ellison, Ralph. The Invisible Man, 1952.

Goldstein-Shirlet, David. Review: Cultural Contexts for Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. Eric J. Sundquist.1999

Carlson, Eric. Essay on the Invisible Man. 2000.

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