Battle Royal, By Ralph Ellison Essay

1354 words - 5 pages


"Battle Royal" is a story about a black boy that is psychologically wakened when he overhears what his grandfather says at his deathbed to his father. This boy, before he realizes who he really is, and his social standing in the society that he lives, is searching to find himself. However this search is filled with many obstacles, because he lives in a time when people of his status are conditioned to act, talk, and behave in a certain way.

Our hero's journey toward the light (truth) is started a long time ago. However in the beginning he is unable to get on the right course, due to the wrong advice he is given by different people; he says it as "All my life I was looking for something, and every were that I turned someone tried to tell me what it was. I accepted their answers too, though they were often in contradiction" (448). Because each time that he accepts their advice he is little by little pushed off the right track. It is not until he realizes that he is searching for himself, and instead of asking others questions, he needs to ask the questions to himself. Once he discovers whom to turn to, he begins a long and difficult journey in which he realizes that he is a unique person, he puts it as, "I am nobody but myself."(449). This means that he is unique and he is who he is, black. However before he comes to this enlightenment he discovers that he is an "invisible man"(449). He marks himself invisible because in the society in which a person is unheard and unseen by others is invisible.

At that point our young friend's problem is clear. He is a black boy in a White men's world, in which he is not see or heard. Yet he still does not know what to do about it, well at-least not until he hears his grandfathers words to his father:

Son, after I'm gone I want you to keep up a good fight. I never told you, but your life is a war and I have been a traitor all my born days, a spy in the enemy's country ever since I give up my gun back in the Reconstruction. 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 burst wide open Learn it to the younguns(449)

These last words that his grand father speaks are the chain-breakers that set the young boy's mind free. What hit's him the hardest is finding out that his people are in an ongoing fight, a war for freedom and equality. And it is these words that guide him on the right path to the realization of who he is, and how he needs to start thinking and acting. However this path that his grandfather sets him on, is one that presents many mind-tormenting problems. How will his people treat him if he takes on a rebellious attitude? Also if he refuses to fight for his rights what will his deceased grandfather think of him? These questions torment the boy's mind and soul. In his mind he literally sets himself between two hard places.

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