The Torn Narrator in Battle Royal by Ralph Ellison Essay

The Torn Narrator in Battle Royal by Ralph Ellison Essay

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The Torn Narrator in Battle Royal by Ralph Ellison

 
   The narrator in "Battle Royal," by Ralph Ellison, is confused and disillusioned. He is black man trapped in a world of cruelty and social inequality with nobody to guide him. He is being ripped apart in two directions by the advice of his grandfather and by the wishes of the white society which he longs to please. While attempting to satisfy their wishes, he forgets what is most important- his own dignity.

 

The narrator's problem is rooted with his parents. They refuse to discuss his grandfather's advice with him, and as a result he never knows exactly what it means. One could see how it would be confusing to a young boy:

 

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 (Ellison 430).

 

His grandfather followed this advice by saying, "Learn it to the younguns," (Ellison 430) and then he died. The advice was meant for the young children, and yet they were never taught its meaning. The narrator was left to ponder its meaning, and his confusion left his mind in constant guilt and disillusionment.

 

His grandfather had always been a model citizen. He was a quiet, meek man who always acted in a desirable way towards the whites. And then, on his deathbed, he called himself a traitor and a spy. What haunted the narrator is that he acted in the same manner...


... middle of paper ...


...t he first had to attend college though. In the end, the narrator did actually benefit from his grandfather's advice, which had tortured him for so long. He states during the story (referring to his grandfather), "It was as though he had not died at all..." (Ellison 430). This is a very true statement. The advice that he gave to the young boy stayed with him for a long time, and in the end guided him to an understanding of the ways of society. The grandfather had his greatest affect on the narrator after he was dead, so it was as if he never died at all because his "good fight" carried on.

 

Works Cited

Ellison, Ralph. "Battle Royal." Making Literature Matter. Ed. John Schilb and John Clifford. Boston: Bedford, 2000.

Mydral, Gunnar. "Social Equality." Making Literature Matter. Ed. John  Schilb and John Clifford. Boston: Bedford, 2000.

 

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