Ralph Ellisons “Battle Royal” :
Analyzing its demonstration of the ideological power of white supremacy.
Ellison began his novel, “Invisible Man” in 1945 and it was published in 1952. Although slavery had been abolished for about eighty years, the laws and the justice system did not protect African Americans from the indignity of segregation and racism at the hand of white people. There was still lynching and the senseless mistreatment and even murders of African Americans by whites. In “Battle Royal,” Ralph Ellison displays the behaviors African Americans had to adopt, that was considered “desirable” to white people, to survive. But, these behaviors were also seen as a betrayal to the black race.
In the story, Ellison uses imagery and a sort of twisted metaphor to demonstrate the ideological power of white supremacy that he himself had to endure. He begins with the recollection of the narrator’s grandfather’s mystifying last words, where he describes himself as a “traitor” and a “spy,” even though the narrator describes him as a “quiet old man who never made any trouble”(Charters 126). The grandfather believed that the way he behaved, which the narrator described as “desirable conduct,” were acts of “treachery”(Charters 126). His acts of “treachery” were showing humility and respectfulness towards white people by degrading himself and his people and conforming to the ideologies of the white people, as a survival tactic. But in doing this he was betraying his people by allowing white people to degrade him and his entire race.
By using the young African American men as entertainment for the evening at the ballroom, the narrator shows the lack of respect the white people had for black people. Putting the young black boys in the presence of the stripper then threatening them if they look and threatening them if they didn’t, making them fight each other, making them embarrass themselves for a few measly coins, all shows how little the white people...
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