“Battle Royal”: Close Read Analysis and Explanation
Ralph Ellison’s “Battle Royale”, is a thought provoking short story that puts a creative twist on the perspectives of racial inequality victims through a clever use of symbolism, setting it apart from any other story of its subject. What’s particularly unique about this story is it can easily be interpreted in a literal sense, in which case the story reads as a compelling experience of a man who struggles to find his identity in a world corrupt with prejudice. However, readers should recognize that this story is fictional so they can begin to identify the symbolism throughout the text that makes this story extraordinary. Although it can easily be assumed that this story focuses primarily on the suffering of an African American minority, but there are a number of obscure, significant details that allow this story to reflect on the existence of racial inequality in America. Additionally, the insight provided regarding the main character’s dreams and inner dialogue provides a unique perspective as a victim of prejudice.
Our first indications of the protagonist’s characteristics are given in the opening two paragraphs with a monologue reflecting on some of his “revelations”. It is evident from this introduction that the main character thinks poorly of himself as he describes himself as a self-contradiction, and ashamed. This opening inner dialogue serves as foreshadowing, indicating that such low self-esteem was provoked by a shameful experience. Immediately after, the story begins with a reflection on the final words of the main character’s “odd” and disliked grandfather. Vague and ominous as these words are, they are vital to the story’s theme and become very clear at the conclusion. To summarize, his grandfather refers to himself as a traitor and urges his son to continue the “good fight”, then asks that the children are taught to do the same. Forever impacted by those words, the main character is left...
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