We were all humans until race disconnected us, religion separated us, politics divided us, and wealth classified us.” – Anonymous. In “Battle Royal” Ralph Ellison, displays that African-Americans being freed from slavery did not bring them equality to the white-superiors using allegory and symbolism. The grandfathers last words, the desperation of the narrator wanting to read his speech, the battle and the nightmare all represent what Ellison is displaying. The narrator opens to the audience explaining his grandfather’s last word to his father. Some of what the grandfather says is, " Live with your head in the lion's mouth. I want you to overcome 'em with yeses, undermine 'em with grins, agree 'em to death and destruction.” (2) The grandfathers last words show symbolism and appear to the narrator’s life throughout the story. What the grandfather is telling his son is to step on rocks and pebbles while he is with the white people. He is telling him to live with the fact that the whites can end him at any moment and to always say yes and nod at them. To always smile and never show anger for your life could get worse.
Although, the grandson fears his grandfather’s words, he begins to follow them. Once he delivers his graduation speech he says, “Everyone praised me and I was invited to give the speech at a gathering of the town's leading white citizens.” (3) Now the narrator has excitement because he is being praised, but he does not realize he said yes to giving his speech to
The narrator in "Battle Royal," by Ralph Ellison, is confused and disillusioned. He is black man trapped in a world of cruelty and social inequality with nobody to guide him. He is being ripped apart in two directions by the advice of his grandfather and by the wishes of the white society which he longs to please. While attempting to satisfy their wishes, he forgets what is most important- his own dignity.
Racism is an issue that blacks face, and have faced throughout history directly and indirectly. Ralph Ellison has done a great job in demonstrating the effects of racism on individual identity through a black narrator. Throughout the story, Ellison provides several examples of what the narrator faced in trying to make his-self visible and acceptable in the white culture. Ellison engages the reader so deeply in the occurrences through the narrator’s agony, confusion, and ambiguity. In order to understand the narrators plight, and to see things through his eyes, it is important to understand that main characters of the story which contributes to his plight as well as the era in which the story takes place.
The young man does not know what is in store for him. He goes to the hotel ready to show his dexterity, but is humiliated by having to participate in a battle royal, which is a boxing match between multiple participants. Young men in the fight are blindfolded, “I had no dignity. I stumbled about like a baby or a drunken man” (244). The boy shows great inner strength when he chooses to stay in the fight for amusement of the white businessmen, which demonstrates his fulfillment to his grandfathers words. If in fact he does get thrown out he many not have a chance to give his speech.
In Ralph Ellison’s “Battle Royal,” the narrator begins with an old memory that haunts him; his grandfather’s last words to his family. Though the old man lived a quiet life in the shadows of the white man, he tells them to do the same, but also to not get undermined by them and be a “spy in the enemy’s country.” The speaker transitions to a specific night that he lived through the day after his graduation. Due to his brilliance and accelerated knowledge he is invited to a “smoker” event where all the topnotch white men go to smoke, drink, and for their peculiar entertainment. The event begins with young black men being rounded up as cattle and forced to witness a naked woman sensually dance for the men. As all men are aroused the white men
(An emotional appeal to the audience) We are all a prostitute to something in this world doing things we don't want to do just to continue in life dealing with the forces that are constantly in our way. This is a relentless reality to the African-American people throughout the history of the United States. How much is one willing to let white men abuse and torment themselves as they dangle the keys to success right in front of oneself, all the while laughing at this “animal” that they see as nothing more than an inferior human to that of themselves as they believe that their skin color makes them superior to all of those unlike them. Ralph Ellison's Battle Royal is a story of just that, as a young, black man yearns to learn who, and what, he is in this world. He takes his grandfather's dying words to his soul of “I want you to overcome ‘em with yeses, un-determine ‘em with grins, agree ‘em to death and destruction” (Ellison 278) even then feeling uncomfortable and guilty. Through this young man's journey to find himself in this world that still laughs at the notion of racial equality, Ellison uses a viscous cast of society's highest “class”, along with men, who are both like and unlike him, who scrap at the scraps of leftovers from these white men to show this young, black man how worthless he is to white men and teach him an important lesson in his first step forward in his dive to the heart to find himself as person and the start of his journey in life as he faces racism
In one way it is symbolic of the African Americans’ struggle for equality throughout our nation’s history. The various hardships that the narrator must endure, in his quest to deliver his speech, are representative of the many hardships that the blacks went through in their fight for equality.
Ellison’s use of language helps imply the animalistic treatment of the young fighters (German). A writer for the Chicago Sun-Times, Michael Eric Dyson, is thoroughly amazed by Ellison’s wordplay by saying, “He spoke elegantly of the beautiful absurdity of the American identity (Dyson).” The choice of words Ellison navigate through America’s history of ideas (Dyson). The portrayal of fighters emphasize the fact that “blacks” were socially inferior. White’s would of never thought to view blacks in the same “league” with them. At this time, no one could imagine the battle royal happening with white’s fighting with an animalistic intentions, while rich, black men sat smoking cigars, cheering for brutality. By using nouns and adjectives, the description of the young fighting has a deeper, harsher connotation.
Ellison once said, “Our social mobility was strictly, and violently, limited” (German 2). The black society is portrayed in a special way in “Battle Royal.” The boxing ring of the Battle symbolizes the confinement of blacks in their society (German 2). The whites are always superior, and the blacks are constantly held back and left fighting. “The story’s title, ‘Battle Royal,’ suggests that the incidents described in the narrative are just one battle in the ongoing racial war” (Brent 2). There is constant controversy between whites and blacks, so far as it is described as a war. In the grandfather’s speech, he describes it as a war, and he states that he wants the narrator to “keep up the good fight.” He then explains how the narrator should do so; he orders him “Live with your head in the lion’s
Authors use different genres of writing to portray their literary messages amongst these genres there are poems and short stories. Battle Royal written by Ralph Ellison is a short story about an African American boy who receives some cryptic advice from his grandfather that ultimately causes him to discover that he must stand up for African Americans and not be a coward like his grandfather was. The poem “We Wear the Mask” by Paul Dunbar is about dishonesty and deception, lying about ones feelings and in a sense hiding ones true emotions with a “mask.” Both of these forms of writing convey an overall message that people do not always speak the truth because they are afraid to do so. They hide behind a façade pretending to be something they are not, thinking they are doing what is best but in reality are only hurting themselves. The poem, “We Wear the Mask” does an overall better job at conveying this message than the short story, Battle Royal. “We Wear the Mask” communicates this message in a much clearer and concise manner. While in Battle Royal, the reader would have to do some research on the time period in order to fully understand the grandfather’s true meaning behind his words. Poetry uses symbolism, tone, and punctuation to provide deeper knowledge behind the author’s words and can give the reader a better understanding of the authors message in a few short stanza’s than a story could in a few pages.
The native Africans' heritage and way of life were forever altered by the white slave drivers who took them into captivity in the 18th century. Along with their freedom, slaves were also robbed of their culture and consequently their identities. They became property instead of people, leaving them at the hands of merciless slave owners. Their quest to reclaim their stolen identities was a long and difficult struggle, especially in the years following the Civil War and the subsequent release of their people from bondage. In Ralph Ellison's 1948 short story "Battle Royal," he uses the point of view of a young black man living in the south to convey the theme of racial identity crisis that faced African Americans in the United States
The story I have chosen to write my literary analysis on is Battle Royale", a short story by Ralph Ellison, written in 1952. This short story is the opening of a larger novel written by Ellison it is a story about a young black man, who has recently graduated high school. During the course of this story the boy’s grandfather dies and leaves the young man with some last words that he did not initially understand but close to the end of the story the words meaning become clearer to him. He lives in the south and is invited to give a speech at a gathering of the towns leading white citizens. Then the young man is made to take place in a battle royale with nine other young black men. Where they are treated very poorly and forced to endure terrible hardships. After taking part in the battle the young man gives a speech in front of a predominantly white crowd where he slips and says something that disturbs the crowd, the young man quickly corrects himself and then is praised by the people as a good black young man. The argument that I will be trying to address here is did the young man make the correct decision by accepting the white peoples praise and not speaking out against the injustice he had just been forced to endure. The reaction of the main character in this story depicts how not speaking up against injustice or racism is sometimes the best course of action.
Implying that the battle, resonates to that of the racial conflict and issues of social standing; which help to solidify the meaning of Ellison’s Marxist composition. To complicate the point, the title of the book is “Battle Royal”, alluding to the great conflict that the narrator was lured into; while juxtaposing the aliments of the Black community endless struggle towards finding recognition and equity in society. Therefore; asserting the claim that the battle, in the passage contextualize to the most core message of the novel proving the conflicting aspect shown by the story and how these sentiments were just specific, to the narrator but, to millions of African-Americans around the country; more in depth, this epic battle aligns with his (the narrator) grandfather’s message foreshadowed earlier in the passage; proclaiming the need for such hostilities, to foster the fight for social recognition of equality to that of the “fairer race” (Ellison pg. 294). The conflict also provokes the pursuit for freedom of future black generation towards recognition and other factors of social equity, which adds to the entity of the story. this addition exhibited when the narrator overcomes his battles later in the book when he’s in his dark apartment and he realizes he’s been blind in the entirety of his life, he
6). The narrator was not looking forward to the battle due to not caring much for the other guys who would be fighting. Little did he know the other fighters would be the least of his worries, nor would they be the ones to prolong his opportunity to deliver his speech.
"Battle Royal" is the story I chose to write about and it is written by Ralph Ellison. The reason that I chose this story is because the way the author uses symbolism. The author tries to show through symbolism that there is a different meaning than what the story says. In the beginning, the story seems to be about one black boy's struggle to get ahead in a white society. He tries' to accomplish this goal by living to his grandfathers dying words. His grand father told him to "live with your head in the lion's mouth, I want you to overcome ‘em with yes, undermine ‘em with grins, agree ‘em to death and destruction, let ‘em swoller you till they vomit or bust wide open." What he meant was his grandfather was telling him