Essay on Invisible Man By Ralph Ellison

Essay on Invisible Man By Ralph Ellison

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In Battle Royal, the first chapter of Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison creates a vivid picture of the volatile relationships between the black inhabitants of an unnamed southern state and the dominant Whites of the area through master full use of imagery and complex figurative language. From the context of the story one can safely assume it takes place in the mid to late 40s, a time in American history where Jim Crow laws were in full effect and Whites controlled almost every aspect of the society. In brief, the story recounts an event in the anonymous narrator’s life where he was invited to speak at an special occasion yet is coerced into participating in a brutal melee against several other boys. The brawl is sport to entertain the men there who unleash additional cruelties on the boys before paying and dismissing them, nearly forgetting the speech. Before the retelling of his experience the narrator the narrator reveals the instruction’s of his grandfather who instructed him to use “yeses and grins” as a means to better the state of his people and their struggle as they live “with their heads in the Lion’s mouth”. This advice is central to the short story as it colors the opinions of the young boy who sees through the White’s self-fabricated status of superiority realizing that of the base of their being they are a beast much like any other.
After being escorted into the fight and blindfolded, the narrator comments that he feels himself to be “ in a dark room filled with poisonous cottonmouths”. His statement invokes the reader to share in his peril as they imagine his vulnerable figure susceptible to the whims of those around him. The White men in the room prey upon the narrator much in the same way a cottonmouth would a rat who ...


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...inating the capacity for all humans to perform savageries in their need to survive. White men are cottonmouths who subjugate the boys to perform vile acts for their enjoyment. The boys are in turn blind crabs in a barrel mercilessly dragging each other farther down into the void in attempt to grasp their own sliver of light. Of the boys, one is a wet rat leveraging his skill set and usefulness as a means to navigate the “lion’s mouth” unscathed that he might climb from the depth to be showered in light. Behind the scenes of this circus of animals is a disguised ringleader deviously orchestrating the spectacle for their own amusement forcing this endless cycle to repeat. Ellison creates this vivid picture all the while asking the audience: Is man no better than the savage beasts of the field who fight to climb the food chain? From Battle Royal, it would not seem so.

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