Ralph Ellison immediately reveals a message in the initial chapter of his piece Invisible Man that communicates through a simple allegory, infused with symbolism. The excerpt, “Battle Royal,” illustrates an unidentified, young, African American character who cleverly seeks to coexist in the white man’s world. However, while the young adult assumes he is “[overcoming] ‘em with yeses, and [undermining] ‘em with grins” (227), the “lily-white men” (227) manipulate the character, dragging him in any direction they please. Similarly, the young adult fails to recognize the real reason he is invited to the Gentlemen’s club: entertainment. He is seen as entertainment. He is seen as a “Nigger.” He is seen as an invisible man.
After the main character’s arrival at the Gentlemen’s club the author uses a multitude of symbolism techniques in order to signify the central idea. At first, the stripper’s presence ...view middle of the document...
Additionally, the comments shouted by the drunken men during the fight clearly reveal the fact that this event is a prime example of perpetual prejudice. The roaring white monkeys continuously refer to the black men fighting as “niggers.” The surrounding viewers that are dictated as important men of the town scream such sayings as, “Let me at that big nigger” (230) and “slug him black boy!” (231). Given these points, the author indicates that racism still exists. The black men are invited into the white men’s club so that they have the opportunity to simply make a buck or two; nevertheless, what they encounter through the stripper, the verbal abuse, and the degrading electric rug completely wipes all and any dignity that these men walked in with upon arrival. Ignoring the fact that these prestigious men just put him through a world of pain solely for entertainment, the protagonist finally gives his speech. Chocking on his blood, saliva, and self-respect the protagonist accidently spits out the truth, while attempting to reiterate “social responsibility.” Afterwards, a white man calmly asks the young adult to repeat the words gains the narrator’s trust and reasserts his dominance when he asks the narrator to repeat what the young adult incidentally said, which is “social equality.” Comments like “someday he’ll lead his people in the proper paths” (235) show the true intentions the white men obtain.
In conclusion, Ralph Ellison employs a variety of symbolism throughout his piece. The stripper symbolizes the oppression the black men and white woman continue to face. The flag tattoo represents the freedom the black men struggle to reach. And, the scholarship to the all-black college relates to the message the protagonist carries in his dream. Likewise, the young man learns that he is in a relentless war; equality is but a word, etched onto a piece of paper. Ellison writes that these white men do not take the action of “social responsibility”, but instead desire to “Keep This Nigger-Boy Running” (236). “Battle Royal” conveys the difficult process black people endure as they strive to achieve social equality.