Summary Of Battle Royal By Ralph Ellison

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Originally published as a short story before being the first chapter of Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, “Battle Royal” depicts the struggle of African Americans in a society majorly dominated by white. The story presents a young African-American man who struggles to find his own identity and who is confronted to the hardship of the white community. Although Ralph Ellison makes numerous references to Booker T Washington and his idea of assimilation, he is using imagery such as the death of the grandfather, the battle royal, and the dream to demonstrate the limits of this idea.
Ralph Ellison presents the first limitation in the politics of assimilation by Booker T. Washington through the imagery of the narrator’s grandfather’s death. According to Corey Seaton, Washington believes that: “it [was] through industry and accumulation of wealth that Blacks can gain the rights suffrage and equality” (1). In other words, Washington believed that black people should not protest racial discrimination. They should instead accept their position and do vocational works to achieve equality. In “battle royal”, the limit of this politics is described by the grandfather in these terms: “I never told you, but our life is a war and I have been a traitor all my born day, a spy in the enemy’s country ever since I gave my gun in the reconstruction” (Ellison 1211). By using the grandfather’s last words to the narrator, Ellison tells his audience that despite following the recommendation of Booker T

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