Essay Battle Royal, by Ralph Ellison

1341 Words 6 Pages
Ellison’s Powerful Battle Royal

I felt a wave of irrational guilt and fear. My teeth chattered, my skin turned to goose flesh, my knees knocked. Yet I was strongly attracted and looked in spite of myself. Had the price of looking been blindness, I would have looked. (Ellison 939)

These insightful words written by Ralph Ellison in the powerful short story "Battle Royal," which later became the first chapter in the critically acclaimed novel Invisible Man, convey the repressed desires of the maligned African American spirit, in an age of oppression ruled by ignorance and fear. In "Battle Royal" Ellison utilizes remarkable powers of perception to deliver a shocking and thought-provoking dissertation on the
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The narrator delivers a well-received discourse at his graduation, which he describes by saying, "On my graduation day I delivered an oration in which I showed that humility was the secret, indeed, the very essence of progress. (Not that I believed this -- how could I, remembering my grandfather? -- I only believed that it worked)" (Ellison 938). The acceptance of the narrator's speech affords him the opportunity to address an assembly of prominent members of the white community, but first he must survive the Battle Royal, a boxing war in the ring against fellow African Americans. The Battle Royal is symbolic of the fight that many blacks wage against themselves to gain money, position, and prominence. The narrator is forced to participate in a battle against blacks before he speaks. This conflict illustrates a powerful tool used by the southern white man, by encouraging infighting, the African American community is kept from uniting, in unity, freedom could be gained.

The narrator is an excellent speaker who remarks about his talent saying, "In those pre-invisible days I visualized myself as a
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