Commentary On Battle Royal Essay, Research Paper
Thoughts on Battle Royal
Ralph Ellison?s short story, Battle Royal, takes place in any small town in the south. The main focus of this story is the reoccurring incidences of racial inequality. This is a story of several generations of an Afro-American family that dream about improving their lives in a racially segregated America. In the beginning of the story, a dying old man tells his son that he should ?keep up the fight?. This was in reference to the fight for social equality. The grandfather also said to his son ?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, let?em swoller you till they vomit or bust wide open.? This meant that the dying grandfather wanted his offspring to be strong and stand up for minority rights. He thought that his son should be polite and use non-violent means to achieve social equality.
The main character in the story was the old man?s grandson. He was a great public speaker who won a competition to speak at a large, private party made up of some of the top social figures in the local community. When the boy got there he saw the school superintendent, policemen, lawyers, bankers and even the local priest. Everyone was dressed up in tuxedos, drank whiskey and ate exquisite foods. He was surprised to find out that he?d be taking part in a battle royal, composed of some of his high school peers. The idea that brutality was acceptable for a lesser race was shown in this story. The black boys were blindfolded and forced to fight each other in a boxing ring for the enjoyment of the white spectators .The school superintendent yells at the boys in the ring saying ?Let me at that big nigger!? Racial slurs were constantly being hurled at the contestants. These boys were treated as just another piece of entertainment for the whites. After the battle, golden coins were thrown out onto the ground for the boys to keep. (Later these are found out to be just coins advertising a certain make of car, and not actually real currency.) An obviously demeaning and insulting deed, the attendees at the party thought that the boys were less intelligent since they were black
This was the time in the program where he got to make his speech. Having a black boy deliver a speech at a party with many important community leaders attending was looked upon as equality by the white community. People wouldn?t stop talking for his speech and then the M.C. made the joke ??I?m told that he knows more big words than a pocket-sized dictionary.? It took a little while for the crowd to stop talking, but he eventually got to speak. At the conclusion of the boy?s speech on social responsibility, he lets the term ?social equality? slip out. The crowd was stunned because they would never dream that a black boy could even mention the idea of social equality. ?The crowd was silent, then sounds of displeasure filled the room.? Angry insults were yelled at him. No one from the black community was even allowed to whisper the words ?social equality?. There was a small man in the front row of the crowd that asked him if it was a mistake, and the boy quickly said that he was mistaken.
When his speech was completed, the superintendent came forward to award him a gleaming calf skin briefcase. The superintendent said ?He makes a good speech and some day he?ll lead his people in the proper paths.? The superintendent didn?t accept the boy on the same social level as himself; this is seen when he refers to blacks as ?his people.? There was an acceptance letter from Tuskegee University in the briefcase. He was overjoyed about this. This was his dream to go to college, and now it was happening.
When he returns home, he has a dream about his grandfather. In this dream, he is having a conversation with his grandfather who tells him to open another letter within the briefcase. This letter reads, ?To Whom It May Concern, Keep This Nigger-Boy Running.? This symbolizes how the whites were keeping him running along the path of life and he didn?t realize how they were making him conform to their wants. The boy has to live life to the fullest instead of conforming to what society thinks a black man should do. In the end he says that he had to first attend college to figure out the meaning of his grandfather?s advice. This last comment is very interesting. He seems to be saying that perhaps he not only needed more education, but also more experience in life. He also
needed to get away from his hometown and its strict racial restrictions. In a way,
the white men who mocked him and his black friends in the battle royal, had also given
him a terrific opportunity to fulfill his grandfather?s request. By getting a college education perhaps he could help himself and others fight racism.