Ralph Ellison’s Essay, Battle Royal

944 words - 4 pages

In Ralph Ellison’s essay “Battle Royal” he describes a Negro boy, timid and compliant,
comes to a white smoker in a Southern town: he is to be awarded a scholarship. Together with
several other Negroes he is rushed to the front of the ballroom, where a sumptuous blonde
tantalized and frightens them by dancing in the nude. Blindfolded, the Negro boys stage a
“battle royal, “ a free-for-all in which they pummel each other to the drunken shouts of the
whites. “Practical jokes,” humiliations, terrors—and then the boy delivers a prepared speech of
gratitude to his white benefactors. Any person with values and morals would be appalled and
ashamed by that the way the white men behaved.      
     The nightmare begins after the narrator makes a speech before his class. The narrator is highly praised for this speech and is asked to speak again to some of the important white citizens of his town. After the young Negro arrived at the hotel he is put in boxing shorts and rushed to the front of the ballroom. Where all these important men were sitting, laughing, smoking, and drinking whiskey. While being lined up with the other young Negro boys he noticed a nude white, blonde haired female and was overcome by her. The main goal of the sumptuous nude blonde dancing was to embarrass and humiliate the young Negroes. The excitement and natural feeling of arousal was the primary goal of the influential white men. These men wanted to see Negroes lust after a beautiful white woman and to let them know that in no way will a Negro ever be allowed to have a white woman. At least that is what they thought. In my opinion the important white men were nothing more than pigs. They enjoyed watching a woman degrade herself by dancing around these young men and taunting them to the point of arousal. These

men must be pretty damn desperate for entertainment to summit young high school graduates to such humiliation for their amusement. I am not only appalled by what these men did but the fact that they were white.
After being humiliated and displayed he is now being told to enter he boxing ring for the “battle royal”. In this event, the narrator and several of his classmates must fight blindfolded until only one person remains standing. While the drunken crowd of respected bankers, lawyers, judges, doctors, and even a pastor finds this to be great entertainment, to the participants it is quite humiliating and degrading. Eventually the narrator and one other man are left alone in the ring. The narrator offers to let the other man win, but the request is refused. Therefore, the two continue to fight until the narrator eventually loses. The fact that grown, respected man can watch and be entertained by this barbaric behavior. I believe that these young men were placed...

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