In Ralph Ellison’s “Battle Royal

In Ralph Ellison’s “Battle Royal,” the narrator is an unnamed character meant to convey the perspective of an African American in a predominantly white and discriminatory society. The ambiguous speaker travels through the story as a young African American in midst of starting college, and is forced to endure a series of discomforting trials in order to deliver a class speech in front an audience of white men. Ellison brings light to the reality of black citizens still being discriminated by their white counterparts decades after slavery was abolished. In this society African Americans were seen as inferior, so they were mostly limited to only second-rate opportunities. Lacking a fair level playing field, there are no equal chances to obtain the American Dream. According to the principles of the American Dream, any individual who works hard enough has the ability to ascend from poverty to wealth. Yet, there are a vast number of people within this country who do not have equal opportunities due to their race and socioeconomic class which is not explicitly stated, but may be understood through the literary symbolism of the naked blond, to the boxing match, and the dream the narrator experiences at the end of the of the chapter.
Throughout the text, the author uses various symbols to represent different meanings in the context of his aspirations of the American Dream. In particular, the dancing blue-eyed blonde woman symbolizes forbidden sensuality, an enticement leveraged by immoral men for their own appalling pleasures. The blonde’s seductive appeal draws male eyes to her, a symbol of what the narrator is prohibited to obtain. The color blue is used as a mechanism for drawing attention. The narrator is drawn to the blonde, just as he is drawn to chase the American dream, but is limited to what he wants to pursue because in this society he is the underdog in the eyes of white men. Overall, this part of the text characterizes America’s distorted system of values and is a symbol that the narrator may desire something, but is out of hand’s reach for the narrator. The American dream that is referred to freedom and equality has been substituted by the persistent hunt of power, sex, and money. This nude figure serves as a reminder to the narrator that American society has caught the attention of many, but can be acquired by only a few, in this case white men.
“The Battle Royal,” the boxing match, exhibits how the speaker’s main counterparts actively radiates hostile environments where fighting was kept within the black community embellished by the rules of whites. The battle in the boxing ring demonstrates the power that whites had over the blacks at the time. The narrator is thrusted into the arena, and he simply did what he was told. The narrator was forced to humiliate himself before an audience of drunken white men for the purpose of entertainment. The function of the battle is to reinforce the idea that African Americans must submit and obey the Caucasian men. This scene shows the lengths blacks will endure for an opportunity for even a low level in the predominately white society. Towards the ending of the boxing match, the blacks were “rewarded” with tokens and fought for the almost worthless objects like animals. The whole scene exemplifies the whites’ void gesture of choosing a few blacks higher into their hierarchy without actually granting them social or political equity. The battle demonstrates how the black community was often obligated to do what they were told in order advance in life. The narrator learns later that moving forward in this society still places him behind the whites, ultimately.


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