Ralph Ellison - Battle Royal Thematic Essay

1739 WordsJun 27, 20127 Pages
Chris Reinert English 102 6/4/12 Mr. Jakubowski “Battle Royal” Racism was a harsh reality for African Americans after the American slave era and is a prominent theme in the short story “Battle Royal”. This story highlights how racism is not only a powerful tool used to keep people down but can also promote savagery. The author, Ralph Ellison, uses vivid imagery to depict the acts of savagery shown by both the slaves and the white crowd. This short story takes place in the post-slavery south during segregation. The story begins with the narrator remembering his grandfather on his deathbed. His grandfather told the narrator’s father, “Our life is a war and I have been a traitor all my born days.” ( ) By saying…show more content…
The scene is very chaotic as the white crowd continued to taunt and push the boys. After the boys collect their winnings which are mostly worthless brass tokens, the narrator can now give his speech. He is exhausted and beat up after the whole ordeal but attempts to deliver his speech nonetheless. As he read his speech the men seemed to ignore and interrupt him rudely. The narrator continued to deliver his speech, speaking louder and more emotionally. He became frustrated at the crowd and misspoke, using the words, “social equality.” ( ) Suddenly the crowd went silent. These words angered the crowd but the narrator was quick to correct it. He apologized for misspeaking and said the incident was due to him swallowing blood. The crowd forgave him. At the end of the speech he was offered a briefcase with a scholarship to college. Inside the briefcase there was a letter saying, "Keep This Nigger-Boy Running." ( ) This short story highlights the terrible nature of racism and how it can turn people into savages. One group of people that could be considered savage is the African American boys that fought in the battle royal. They are brought to the smoker to fight at the white men’s pleasure. The African American fighters are degraded by this event and have become savage-like creatures fighting for small sums of money. The narrator says, “Blindfolded, I could no longer control my motions. I had no dignity. I stumbled about like a baby or a

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