October 12th 2012
Themes in Battle Royal
“Battle Royal” by Ralph Ellison is about a nameless protagonist young African American who struggles to find his place in society. Ellison doesn’t provided a statistics or facts about racial discrimination instead Ellison uses imagery and satire that allows readers to step into the horrific experiences of the young man described in the story. More importantly, Ellison uses the key events of “Battle Royal” to satirically show real cultural issues affecting African American society throughout history. The major theme in Battle Royal is racism, an underlying theme is identity. Early in the story we learn a few things about the main character for example he is graduating from high school, also that he is an excellent speaker and that he is invited to read his speech in an all white men’s club. At this time the young man believes in the accommodations philosophy for his race “I visualized myself as a potential Booker T. Washington” (128). The main character speech is about humility and how by using humility improvement will be made. The protagonist arrives at the club ready to deliver his speech to the audience but when he arrived he was asked to participate in other activities. A boxing match or a Battle Royal is arranged and he is told to participate. The main character wasn’t the only one there, 9 other African American participated in this match as well. During the event important men from the community there were drinking and smoking cigars. In the scene a naked beautiful white woman appears and begins to dance in front of the 10 fighters the main characters feels confuse about how he should react to the scene “My teeth chattered, my skin turned to goose flesh, knees knocked. Yet I was strongly attracted and looked in spite of myself ”(129). As she dance the white men riled the fighters “Some threatened us if we looked and others if we did not. On my right I saw a boy faint” (129)....