Battle Royal Thesis
Ralph Ellison’s “Battle Royal” (rpt. In Michael Meyer, The Bedford Introduction to Literature, 9th ed. [Boston: Bedford, 2011] 277) is a short story about realization and blindness. It is the first chapter from “Invisible Man” (1952) which was his only published book and won him the National Book Award in 1953. It’s about pleasing others to belong to a group and fighting to get to the top. It’s also about the narrator wanting to please the very people who looked at him as an inferior race through his determination, well educated, and bravery.
First of all, the narrator displays his determination in doing the unthinkable to say his speech in front of the town’s leading white citizens. He says, “I spoke even louder in spite of the pain” (285). Even though he wanted to run off that stage and go home, he didn’t. He stood his ground and continued his speech considering the pain he was in: “I was limp as a dish rag. My back felt as though it had been beaten with wires” (284). All he thought about was giving his speech. It was more important than the fighting and the humiliation: “And yet, I had begun to worry about my speech again” (282). He wasn’t sure if he would be able to give his speech when the fighting was over, but still he kept going.
Another of the narrator’s character traits is his intelligence. The superintendent of his high school helps to show the narrators intelligence in this story “he knows more words than a pocket sized dictionary” (285). The narrator doesn’t want to come right out and say he is intelligent, but expresses it in the way his superintendent spoke of him “Gentlemen, you see that I did not overpraise this boy” (286). The narrator says “I delivered an oration in which I showed that humility was the secret, indeed, the very essence of progress. Everyone praised me and I was invited to give the speech at a gathering of the town’s leading white men” (278). He was very well spoken and presented himself as such....
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