Ralph Ellison Battle Royal Short Story Analysis

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Ralph Ellison Battle Royal Short Story Analysis

By | March 2013
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Playing a Role to Succeed
Gaining freedom does not mean one has gained equality. The civil war ended slavery but African Americans still suffered from racism. Ralph Ellison touches on this topic in his short story “Battle Royal” which portrays the life of a young African American post-civil war. Before the narrator in Ralph Ellison’s “Battle Royal” was an “invisible man” he was a young African American who had to deal with oppression in order to survive in his modern time. Ralph Ellison uses symbolism, metaphors, and imagery in “Battle Royal” in order to enhance the portrayal of the life of a young African American male who tries to achieve academic success while being oppressed by his white counterparts.

Symbolism is used in many parts of this short story; however, the most impacting point upon which symbolism is used is in the ballroom of the leading hotel where the battle royal takes place. During the battle royal, Ellison is describing the scenery upon which he is forced to fight with fellow classmates who genuinely hate him even though they are fellow African Americans. Ellison explains the feeling of helplessness as he received blows from all directions and struggled to make it through the match with as little injury as possible. This is a great use of symbolism because it shows the barbarity of African Americans during the time. In a sense all the participants in the battle royal are hungry for success and know it is practically impossible unless they do as they are told. This symbolism is used to enhance the idea that during this time, rising to higher success for the African American race required them to clash with one another due to the fact that the white oppressors didn’t want the African American race to thrive.

Amidst being in the ballroom the narrator is pushed to the front where he and the other African Americans are forced to watch a naked white woman, who is described as being “stark-naked” with an American flag painted on her upper...
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