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Battle Royal

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Battle Royal, written by Ralph Emerson, is a thought provoking story which everyone can relate to. Through numerous examples of irony, he is able to bring attention to issues that are not normally conversational. The author confronts controversial topics by using symbolic references, making the reader question society's preset beliefs. In order to accomplish change, an individual must look within and question their own beliefs, determine their purpose, and remain true to himself.

There are several ironic elements in the story of Battle Royal. First of all, the narrator is telling the story from his past. He tells the reader how he felt then and how his feelings have changed. He is compared to his meek grandfather whose last words had cursed the narrator for years. Every time that our main character was praised for an accomplishment he felt guilty. It is unusual to associate guilt with achievement, but when placed in a society where negative judgment is passed down quickly, the narrator has no other choice. The main character is asked to speak at a community gathering but is then asked to participate in the battle, which takes place before the speech. Throughout the story, the narrator ponders the success of his speech. He struggles to finish his speech of responsibility despite his bloody lip and inconsiderate audience. Surprisingly, the once hostile group of white men were applauding the speech of social equality. The narrator is then awarded a scholarship to attend a Negro state college. The author illustrates how society still is segregated by allowing the speaker to attend a black college but not a white university. The narrator would usually have felt guilty due to his success but he was not upset but overjoyed when he was congratulated by his community. Our main character completes the story by telling the reader he has no in sight regarding his dream about the ongoing African American struggle. He had no time in which to interpret its meaning for he was much too busy; he had to attend college. The author feels so strongly about this controversial issue of segregation and racism he adds one last example of irony to illustrate the need for not only white Americans to stop discrimination, but also African Americans.

Throughout the entire story, the author confronts one of the most controversial topics of the twentieth century, social equality. The author establishes that during these times, America was not free and united for all, but that it was unequal and "separate like the fingers of the hand" (2, 6). At the time in which Battle Royal was published, authentic freedom seemed to be out of reach for anyone that was not your average white American. Before the battle takes place the white men of the town feast on buffet food, down whiskey, smoke cigars, and enjoy themselves. Meanwhile the black men are gathered together and pushed into the center of the room in front of a gorgeous blonde haired, blue eyed, naked white woman. Many of the tough fighters were paralyzed by her beauty. The main character is confused as to whether be amazed or ashamed but finds himself admitting "had the price been blindness, I would have looked" (7, 9). The author vividly describes the nude woman going to the extent of describing the American flag tattooed on her stomach. The American flag is

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