The Torn Narrator In Battle Royal By Ralph Ellison

1893 words - 8 pages

The Torn Narrator in Battle Royal by Ralph Ellison

 
   The narrator in "Battle Royal," by Ralph Ellison, is confused and disillusioned. He is black man trapped in a world of cruelty and social inequality with nobody to guide him. He is being ripped apart in two directions by the advice of his grandfather and by the wishes of the white society which he longs to please. While attempting to satisfy their wishes, he forgets what is most important- his own dignity.

 

The narrator's problem is rooted with his parents. They refuse to discuss his grandfather's advice with him, and as a result he never knows exactly what it means. One could see how it would be confusing to a young boy:

 

Son, after I'm gone I want you to keep up the good fight. I never told you, but our 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 bust wide open (Ellison 430).

 

His grandfather followed this advice by saying, "Learn it to the younguns," (Ellison 430) and then he died. The advice was meant for the young children, and yet they were never taught its meaning. The narrator was left to ponder its meaning, and his confusion left his mind in constant guilt and disillusionment.

 

His grandfather had always been a model citizen. He was a quiet, meek man who always acted in a desirable way towards the whites. And then, on his deathbed, he called himself a traitor and a spy. What haunted the narrator is that he acted in the same manner as his grandfather did, and had always received compliments and praise from the whites in his society. And on the other hand, his grandfather referred to those acts as being treacherous. This brought about a feeling of guilt in the narrator. How could he maintain the respect of the whites without being dubbed a traitor?

 

It took him a while, but eventually he learned the meaning of his grandfather's advice. He was doing the acts that his grandfather meant, when he referred to "the good fight." However, there was one major difference issue that he didn't understand. In trying to impress the high-standing white members of his community, he allowed them to take advantage of his ambition. He wanted to impress them because he felt that they were the ones who mattered, and only their respect and admiration counted. This was the difference. His grandfather's advice was meant to have the "younguns" put on a mask when with the whites. Their opinion did matter, because it was them who controlled society and them who determined the quality of life in the black community. But the agreeing and sucking up that was done had to be artificial. His inner-self must be preserved, otherwise he would be nothing more...

Find Another Essay On The Torn Narrator in Battle Royal by Ralph Ellison

Battle Royal, by Ralph Ellison Essay

476 words - 2 pages In Battle Royal, Ellison shows us various things to bring our attention to the pain the minority group suffered. In doing this Ellison shows us relationships between the torment they felt to our feelings for them. When the boys enter the boxing ring, they are shown off like animals. The woman dancing represents the sick pleasure derived from the boys' torture. Ellison shows us a picture of the human mind, in seeing something to lust after then

Battle Royal, by Ralph Ellison Essay

922 words - 4 pages "Battle Royal" is the story I chose to write about and it is written by Ralph Ellison. The reason that I chose this story is because the way the author uses symbolism. The author tries to show through symbolism that there is a different meaning than what the story says. In the beginning, the story seems to be about one black boy's struggle to get ahead in a white society. He tries' to accomplish this goal by living to his grandfathers

Battle Royal, by Ralph Ellison

1354 words - 5 pages responsibility"(457). The physical battle that our hero is made to fight in shows us two important issues: First, how the black boys are kept down (socially) by being forced to fight against their own. This tactic of keeping your enemies fighting each other, so you can control them easier has been used numerous times in history. However the horrible things about Battle Royal is that the black boys except it morally, and think that it is alright for them

Symbolism and "Battle Royal" by Ralph Ellison

578 words - 2 pages Ralph Ellison wrote "Invisible Man" which was his story of the black experiences in America and "Battle Royal" was derived from the opening chapter of "Invisible Man". "Battle Royal" was published as a short story in 1947 and provides the reader with a look at the struggles of black people in a white America. After giving a speech at his graduation, the narrator is invited to give the speech to many of the leading white people of the town only

Cruelty and Racism in the "Battle Royal" by Ralph Elison

553 words - 2 pages "Cruelty and Racism in "Battle Royal"Battle Royal is the first chapter in a novel called "The Invisible Man." "Ralph Ellison," who lived 1914 - 1994, based this novel on the life of a young black man, the narrator, living in the world of cruel racism. The narrator's life was a fine example of racism. The white people, in this story, are merciless and malicious. Ellison's definition of racism incorporates a high degree of cruelty; he tells how

The Fight For Equality in Ralph Ellison's Battle Royal

1198 words - 5 pages Merriam-Webster defines battle royal as “a fight participated in by more than two combatants; especially: one in which the last man in the ring or on his feet is declared the winner.” In Ralph Ellison’s short story, “Battle Royal”, the theme most prevalent throughout the narrative is, “The Fight for Equality in a White, Male-Driven Society.” The author’s use of symbolism in the narrative supports this idea. Such things as the grandfather’s curse

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

Refusing to Fight in Ralph Ellison’s Battle Royal

2242 words - 9 pages Refusing to Fight in Ralph Ellison’s Battle Royal The 1940s represent a decade of turmoil for the United States in general. Perhaps no group of people struggled more during that time period, however, than African Americans. With racial segregation prevalent, particularly in the South, opportunity was lacking for African-Americans. However, Ralph Ellison suggests in “Battle Royal” that due to the lack of racial unity among

The Tone and Style of Ralph Ellison's Battle Royal

962 words - 4 pages A short analysis of the major theme found in Ellison’s Battle Royal, supported by a literary criticism dealing with the tone and style of the story. Introduction: Ralph Ellison’s short story, Battle Royal, is mainly an account of the African American struggle for equality and identity. The narrator of the story is an above average youth of the African American community [Goldstein-Shirlet, 1999]. He is given an opportunity to give a speech

Symbols in the Briefcase in “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison

792 words - 3 pages Towards the end of the book “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, the narrator who remains unnamed thought the entire book, risks his life to save a briefcase filled with seemingly random assorted items. But later in the book the narrator is forced to burn the items in his briefcase in order to find his way out of a sewer he gets stuck in. Closer reading reveals that the items in his briefcase are more than random assorted items, but instead are

True Identity in The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

1039 words - 4 pages He is not Your Pinocchio Anymore: The Brief Look into the Narrator’s Self-Realization In the novel Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison utilizes the motif of paper to demonstrate the journey the narrator goes through to realize his true identity. By using this motif, the narrator’s identity is revealed in various stages over the course of the novel. In the beginning of the novel, paper seems similar to a beacon of hope; shining light on all the

Similar Essays

Racism In Battle Royal By Ralph Ellison

1155 words - 5 pages essence of progress" (449) before the white leaders of the town. These men, however, humiliate the protagonist and some other black youths by forcing them to engage in a "battle royal," a blindfolded fist fight in which the last standing participant is victorious and tempting them to fight for counterfeit coins tossed on an electrified rug. Even after being degraded, beaten up, used, and treated like an animal the narrator still wants to impress

Symbolism In Battle Royal, By Ralph Ellison

808 words - 3 pages Ralph 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

Battle Royal, By Ralph Ellison Essay 1489 Words

1489 words - 6 pages Ellison’s Powerful Battle Royal      I felt a wave of irrational guilt and fear. My teeth chattered, my skin turned to goose flesh, my knees knocked. Yet I was strongly attracted and looked in spite of myself. Had the price of looking been blindness, I would have looked. (Ellison 939)   These insightful words written by Ralph Ellison in the powerful short story "Battle Royal," which later became the first chapter in the

Battle Royal, By Ralph Ellison Essay 1871 Words

1871 words - 7 pages them (Dyson). Ellison created a everlasting classic because it refused to neglect the cruelty of racial segregation. Racial segregation will still live with in the mind frame of countless Americans and will never totally die, and never will Ralph Ellison’s Battle Royal. As quoted by Cornel West in Race Matters, (1993) Ralph Ellison states: Since the beginning of the nation, white Americans have suffered from a deep inner uncertainty as to who