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Battle Royal Written by Ralph Ellison

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Jason Black

Dr. Amy Green


September 15, 2017

Battle Royal

Battle Royal is a short story, written by Ralph Ellison, that describes the struggles for equality by the African American citizens. The short story is told from the point of view of a young African American man, who is considered very intelligent.  The young man always looked up to his grandfather who was dying.  The grandfather would tell the young man to be submissive, to overcome with yeses, undermine with grins, and agree to death and destruction. His grandfather would tell him to put his head in the mouth of the lion.   His intelligence is put on display when he is asked to speak at his high school’s graduation and then is later asked to give his speech to a gathering of the towns leading white citizens.  This gathering, that is supposed to be a great event for this young man, one that is supposed to be a victory for the young man’s community, but only turns out to be a horrifying event.  One that this young man will never forget and shows the racism and traumatic events endured by the African American community.  Events that show the struggle for rights, that the African American community would have to overcome against all odds.

When the young man arrives at the gathering of the town’s prominent white citizens, he is advised he’d be participating in a “battle royal” before giving his speech.  The narrator would be a part of a group of ten young men, who would entertain the towns leadership with this battle royal.  When the group of young men were lead into the ballroom of the hotel, the location where the fight would take place, they were greeted by the presence of a naked woman dancing. Some of the boys were trembling and had their heads down, but the narrator kept looking at this young blonde woman, and would’ve gladly paid the price of blindness to keep looking.  He describes her as hair of yellow, face heavy make-up, and cool blue eyes.  The young man describes his desire to spit on the young woman but he goes on to tell of his desires to want to touch her body.  This young naked woman paraded in front of these young men, is to symbolize, the good things they will never have since they are not of white skin color.  This white woman also symbolizes what’s keeping the blacks from being accepted.  The white man is responsible for the oppression of both the white woman and the blacks during these times.

The young men, some of which are friends, are about to put friendships aside, and are placed into a boxing ring and blindfolded.  These ten young men would be fighting each other until only one was left standing.  The narrator, who was not to originally participate, was told he would be fighting since he was already in the building to give a speech.  This fight, was to be fought for the amount of ten dollars. The towns leaders were able to have this entertainment of the battle royal, by taking advantage of the unfair equality and poverty within the black community.  Ten dollars would help provide for each boy’s family that was participating within this fight.  These boys, putting friendships a side, fought blindfolded for their white town leaders. The boys fought and beat each other, which in a way was against the narrator’s submissive ways.  He was turned into an aggressor during this fight and mainly due to the way the white town leaders were forcing them to take part in this battle royal. The young man was able to fight from group to group, he was able to avoid blows with this tactic, and eventually would be one of the last two men standing.  The young black man would be standing with the biggest competitor of all the group, and would eventually fall from blows by this bigger competitor.  This battle royal is a way to show one way in which a tight knit community can be broken apart over sheer fear and a few dollars.  



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