English / Battle Royale

Battle Royale

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Autor:  anton  09 July 2011
Tags:  Battle,  Royale
Words: 616   |   Pages: 3
Views: 229

In Ralph Ellison's Battle Royale, an unidentified African American protagonist elucidates upon the inhumane nature of slavery and segregation in the south. He portrays this through his vivid descriptions of his grandfathers last dying words, his involvement in a degrading boxing match & obstacle course with his peers, and the deliverance of his speech on the subject of humility and submission as a means of advancement in a white society. He is then awarded a scholarship to the state's college for African Americans. Following these events, upon awakening from a dream involving his grandfather and himself, the narrator experiences a moment of enlightenment. This moment of self-awareness and clarity allows him to comprehend what his grandfather meant upon his deathbed: that African Americans must rebel against white suppression under the pretext of submission and conformity. Through his work, Ellison suggests that bigotry hinders the development of self identity. A sub-theme implies that group ideology also hinders self identity formation.

The narrator “felt superior to” the nine other boys participating in the battle royal. His sense of apprehension was “Not from a distaste for fighting, but because I didn’t care too much for the other fellows” and he is certain that “the other fellows didn’t care too much for me either”. The narrator views the other boys as “tough guys” who personify the type of African Americans his grandfather did not want him to become. The narrator struggles to find a balance in his conduct among the black and white communities.

The narrator grapples with the fact that African Americans weren’t granted the same freedoms and rights as whites, which they proclaimed they would possess through segregation. The author reveals his awareness of the strategy that white society implemented on the black community, as well as their naivety in accepting it as the truth. This is apparent during his speech when a white audience member utters, “We mean to do right by you, but you’ve got to know your place at all times.” Moreover, when the narrator discovers that, “the gold pieces I had scrambled for were brass pocket tokens advertising a certain make of automobile”, it suggests that the valueless tokens represented the hollow promises made by whites in regards to equality – African Americans were unable to purchase automobiles like their white counterparts due to the economic & social disparity during that time period.

He struggles internally with “guilt” that his behavior to appease his white superiors would be considered “treachery” by his grandfather, and that “the old man’s words were like a curse”, serving as a constant reminder. He also experienced conflict between how others (black or white) identify him, and his own self perceptions. This internal division he felt is evident when he states, “It made me afraid that some day they would look at me as a traitor” but “I was praised by the most lily-white men in the town. I was considered an example of desirable conduct.” The narrator also seeks acknowledgment of his uniqueness, opposed to his status in society as inequitable minority.

The narrator’s inability to precisely define himself initially prevents him from overcoming his limitations in both spheres of society he is immersed in. As the battle royal comes to a conclusion, his moment of clarity presents itself to him when he “finally pulled erect and discovered that I could see” and “with my eye partly opened now there was not so much terror.” The protagonist abruptly realizes the depth of his grandfather’s words: by feigning ignorance and submission, white society will overlook his true intentions of intellectual and emotional autonomy as a means to advance himself and his people.



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