Literary Analysis of Ralph Ellison's 'The Black Ball'

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Literary analysis of Ralph Ellison's short story "The Black Ball" In the short story "The Black Ball" by Ralph Ellison, a father named John is desperately trying to hold onto his job as a hotel porter to support his child and initially ignores the entreaties of an eager white man who would like John to join a union. Ellison uses the symbolism of a child's toy to indicate the psychologically and economically constrained world of African-Americans. Despite his apparent intelligence, John has no hopes of finding an occupation other than menial labor. He is afraid to aspire to greater heights, and is saddened by the lesson he fears his child must learn in American society, that black is inevitably regarded as inferior to white. However, over the course of the story, John gradually learns that he must put his old fears aside. At the beginning of the story, the man's child complains about being taunted by his school friends as 'black. The young boy says "Brown's so much better than black, isn't it daddy?" The father replies "But American is better than both, son" (Ellison 344). This indicates the narrator's attempt to create an upstanding image of himself as a black man for the world, so he can hold onto his job. This sense of contained, almost fearful moral uprightness is confirmed when John refuses a cigarette offered by a man attempting to unionize the African-American employees. John is also presented as terrified about upsetting the social order. This is manifested in his

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