In “Battle Royal” by Ralph Ellison, the brawl initially acts as a suspense builder. Before the climactic speech, the reader must explore the fight between the protagonist and a few black boys. White men incite this fight for their own viewing pleasure. At first glance, the Battle Royal scene appears trivial but it allows the reader to dwell into the mind of the protagonist. Ellison makes a social commentary throughout this story on the newly emancipated black man’s quest for success. In Battle Royal by Ralph Ellison, the white men invite the narrator to fight under the pretense of a speech opportunity, the actual fight scene symbolizes white America’s efforts to instill black disunity, and the narrator briefly realizes that the prestigious white men whom he adores, were not contributing to his advancement but surreptitiously hindering it.
A reader must always note that the narrator involuntarily participated in the battle royal. “I was told that since I was to be there anyway, I might as well take part in the battle royal” (2). This statement illustrates an idea that the whites coerced the narrator into the smoker. He could have turned down this invitation but “he was afraid to act any other way because they didn’t like that at all” (2). The naive narrator lives for the moment and fails to contemplate the existence of anterior motives. In addition, without the narrator present, the fight would include only nine boys.
Very seldom do organized fights include an odd number of participants. One can only question whether the whitesR...
17; purpose for inviting him to speak was to fill the roster for the battle royal. The white men planned the narrator’s participation in the brawl before he even arrived at the hotel.The narrator partakes in one of the most barbaric events imaginable in our society. Up to this point, Ellison portrays his main character as an urbane yet naive intellectual. The author incorporates irony in this scene because an intelligent and sophisticated man participates in a primal and uncivilized act.
The rationale behind his action includes the fact that he will finally deliver his speech to this exalted audience.The Battle Royal combatants include ten black boys. “I felt superior to them in my way, and I didn’t like the manner in which we were all crowded together into the servants elevator” (3). Each fighter was stripped of their dignity and demoralized in this smoker but the protagonist feels superior to the other fighters. Ellison further illustrates the friction between the narrator and the other fighters by the repetition of I, and them.
When the subject is housing or position, we, illuminates the fact that the white men saw no difference within the group. At this point, the main character fails to realize his invisibility to whites. He feels better than his fellow combatants because the white men will let him deliver his speech after the fight. In contrast, the white men view all of them equally; therefore they share the same elevator.”I was shocked to see some of the most important men of the town quite tipsy.
They were all there– bankers, lawyers
judges, doctors, fire chiefs, teachers, merchants. Even one of the more fashionable pastors”(3).This passage displays a repugnant yet, viable social revelation of the author’s time period. Ralph Ellison revealed a suppressed notion in black circles that influential white individuals were opposed to black advancement.
The battle royal symbolizes a fight incited by whites to hinder black unity. Without unity, oppressed people cannot form an organized and powerful resistance to this oppression. The whites watching this battle royal, all want to keep the black man “in his place”. This anti-progress group included distinguished members of society, even a preacher. For decades, this group roamed faceless and nameless. The examples chosen by Ellison are obviously intentional and the author intended to provoke thought.
The idea that a minister could be a bigot seemed absurd; therefore, Ellison caused much commotion when he pinpointed the more subtle members of this group. Community members empowered to protect and serve blacks were included in this odious clique.From a grammatical standpoint, the second sentence in the passage appears long and loaded with examples ad nauseam. After interpreting the concept, I realized that the lack of any one example would lessen the overall magnitude of the sentence.
The protagonist in this story views the educated white man as a friend and role model. When he sees all of his “friends” watching such a barbaric and inhumane act, he immediately becomes appalled. Ellison’s uses excellent diction in the first sentence because each word, especially shocked, displays the impact the event had on the protagonist.As the narrator contemplates meeting the blonde dancer, he states, “had the price of looking been blindness, I would have looked” (4). This quote exhibits the genius of Ellison. He chooses blindness over the more obvious final fate, death.
If the narrator were blind, he would be invisible to himself. Invisibility would mean that whites would see no difference between him and any other black man. As a blind man, he would not be able to distinguish between him and other blacks. As a final blow, he would not be able to see his beloved white role models. To these extreme lengths, he would go to have this blonde.”Streaks of blue light filled the black world behind the blindfold” (6).
The narrator acknowledges his blackness for the first time, in this passage. Ironically, he needed a blindfold to see that the black fighters were his equals. The white blindfold inhibits the appearance of anything of color. With the blindfold on, he realized that all black people are invisible in this world of white.
To overcome this invisibility, he had to make the white men differentiate between him and other blacks. Before the fight, the battle royal was the only obstacle stopping him from delivering his speech. In his mind, the speech would allow the white men to affirm his superiority to the other blacks.”I was seared through the deepest levels of my body to the fearful breath within me and the breath seared and heated to the point of explosion (11).
The narrator finally comprehended that the white men were the true hindrance to his advancement.
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