"Battle Royal", an excerpt from Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, is far more than a commentary on the racial issues faced in society at that time. It is an example of African-American literature that addresses not only the social impacts of racism, but the psychological components as well. The narrator (IM) is thrust from living according to the perceptions of who he believes himself to be to trying to survive in a realm where he isn't supposed to exist, much less thrive. The invisibility of a mass of people in a society fed the derivation of IM's accepted, willed, blindness. The reader must determine the source of what makes IM invisible. Is part of IM's invisibility due to his self-image or surrender to the dominant voice in the United States? The answer lies in whether or not the blindness and the invisibility were voluntary or compulsory.
The relationship between IM's blindness and his invisibility are not due solely to the color of his skin. There is a level of invisibility that does directly result from the prejudice of the white men. The white community is unwilling to look beyond their stereotypes of the role and place of black men. The school superintendent that had requested IM's appearance at the ballroom to give his speech was also the same man that brought the black men into the ballroom with the words, "Bring up the shines, gentlemen! Bring of the little shines!" (1527). A few days earlier IM had given a valedictorian speech that " . . . was a great success. Everyone praised [him] and. . . . It was a triumph for [his] whole community" (1526). In the environment of the smoker though, he was just another "shine", nothing worth any notation of any kind. However, IM is blind to this. He does not seem aware of his invisibility at that moment; his focus lies in the presentation of his speech. He is oblivious to the blindness of the white men in regards to him, but it is not only the white characters that refuse to see IM as IM sees himself.
IM is fully aware of the animosity of the men scheduled to fight in the battle royal. The tension is tangible. "They were tough guys . . .. [that] didn't care too much for [IM]" (1526). IM is at the...
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...en provide the opportunity of a lifetime to the grateful boy. They will provide the vehicle for him to grow up with all of the knowledge it takes to be a socially responsible black man. IM does not recognize the paid tuition as a payoff for keeping his place. Instead, he is "so moved he could hardly express [his] thanks" (1534). Even as his blood traces a trail across his treasured gift, he does not see the price he is expected to pay. He can have the world of a black man laid at his feet, he just has to make sure he doesn't get in the way of real men, of white men.
IM's complains that feeling invisible makes him "ache with the need to convince [himself] that [he does] exist in the real world, that [he is] a part of all the sound and anguish" (1518). He is blinded by his view of the world. Yes, the people in the white society are oblivious to his existence. His presence in their world would be a threat to their concept of a black man. However, the entire world is invisible to IM. He is blinded by the perfections and imperfections of the societies that surround him. IM can only see what he believes the world to be, and the world can only see what IM probably is.
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