Battle Royal

– Symbolism Essay, Research Paper


Ellison’s short story, "Battle Royal", is symbolic in many different

ways.In one way

it is symbolic of the African Americans’ struggle for equality throughout our

nation’s history. The various hardships that the narrator must endure, in his

quest to deliver his speech, are representative of the many hardships that the

blacks went through in their fight for equality. The

narrator in Ellison’s short story suffers much. He is considered to be one of

the brighter youths in his black community. The young man is given the

opportunity to give a speech to some of the more prestigious white individuals.

The harsh treatment that he is dealt in order to perform his task is quite

symbolic. It represents the many hardships that the African American people

endured while they fought to be treated equally in the United States. He

expects to give his speech in a positive and normal environment. What faces him

is something that he never would have imagined. The harsh conditions that the boys

competing in the battle royal must face are phenomenal. At first the boys are

ushered into a room where a nude woman is dancing. The white men yell at the

boys for looking and not looking at the woman. It is as if they are showing

them all of the good things being white can bring, and then saying that they

aren’t good enough for it since they were black. Next the boys must compete in

the battle royal. Blindly the boys savagely beat one another. This is symbolic

of the African Americans’ fight for equality. It represents the struggle they

endured, to be accepted as equals with our society’s white population, upon the

abolition of slavery. Blindly, our nation’s black population fought, not always

knowing what for, just as the boys in this story fought. The segregation of

schools, restaurants, and other public facilities were issues that were

fiercely fought over.These

battles are directly represented by the barbarous fighting by 10 boys in a

ring, being witnessed by whites in high social standing. Totally engrossed by

the fighting these men yelled cruel things and became frenzied. This is

representative of the how our nation’s white population treated African

Americans for many years. Often they took a stance of authority, feeling

superior to the black minorities. This belief is portrayed by the men’s angered

actions toward the boys. The

electrified rug is another important piece in this story. The boys are given

the opportunity to take bills and coins off of a rug, after the battle royal

has been completed. As they grab for the money they receive jolts of

electricity from the rug. The boys find it extremely hard not to reach for the

money even though they will go through much pain in doing so. These activities

again represent the African American’s struggle for equality. Even though

segregation became an eventual realization the blacks had to suffer much.

Blacks attending schools with whites still had to endure racial prejudices and

misjudgments by much of the population. The boys in "Battle Royal"

were given the opportunity to get money, but they had to endure the physical

pain of being electrocuted in the process. The white men again are amused by

these activities just as men throughout the years were amused by the activities

of African American’s. The blacks were given things but with a price attached

to it just as the boys were. The dream

that the narrator has at the end of the story is very important as well. He

describes his grandfather as having him open envelope after envelope, finally

reaching one that held a document. On it was written "To Whom It May

Concern, Keep this Nigger-Boy Running." This represents many of the

hardships that the African American people had to deal with over the years.

Even though the narrator was given a degree of respect by giving his speech it

was not nearly enough. The whites gave him his briefcase and congratulated him

and that was it. The dream shows that they were just casting the narrator off,

not really giving him anything valid at all. They said "Nice job,"

but this really isn’t much at all. The white men still felt and air of

superiority, sending the narrator off to busy himself with tasks that they felt

were relevant. He felt good about all of this at the time, but he will just be

living the life that the whites envision he should have. This represents what

happened in out nation’s history as well. The whites tried to appease our

nation’s black population by giving them certain rights but never really

letting them be truly equal. Ralph

Ellison’s short story, "Battle Royal" is very significant. It is

representative of the many struggles and hardships that our nation’s African

American population endured throughout history.?


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