The Battle of the Others
“All my life I had been looking for something, and everywhere I turned someone tried to tell me what it was (258).” This quote from the narrator in Ralph Ellison’s Battle Royal demonstrates the influence people played in the narrators self image, at times damaging him, at times inspiring him. Throughout the story the narrator shows himself as someone who struggles with who he is supposed to be according to his family and society. Through the postcolonial lens it is understood that a character’s self image is damaged and they are felt as othered by a dominant cultures. Ellison’s portrayal of the narrator displays a character that struggles to accept the subservient role that has been placed on him by dominant society.
The narrator’s depicts a feeling of being stuck between two cultures. When the grandfather says, “I have been a traitor all my born days, a spy in the enemy’s country,” it plants a seed in the narrator’s mind that haunts him throughout his life (258). When he accomplishes anything in the white man’s society he is stuck between feeling guilty and proud. He feels as though he does not fit in with his African American community because he is doing everything the dominant society asks of him. At the same time it is clear that he is not part of the dominant society either. With this displacement, Ellison shows the way many African American’s felt during the 1950s. They didn’t know whether to accept the damaged self image that was being forced on them and live a peaceful life, or fight for equality. Due to the narrator’s feeling of being lost, he accepts what he thinks is his best option, that being his place with the dominant culture.
The narrator’s distorted view of the way he should live his life blinds him to the humiliation and cruelty he endures in the company of the white citizens. When the boys are forced to watch the women dance, Ellison is illustrating the control the dominant society has over the behavior of the...
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