In the short story, “Battle Royal”, Ralph Ellison uncovers a boy’s fight to maintain his dignity in a world of racial injustice. The first person narration portrays a naïve view of the boy’s values of what he believes is important in life that is only questioned by his grandpa’s firm conviction of dignity. On page 39, starting with paragraph 99, the text depicts the differences between the two segregated worlds of black and white.
The text elucidates the boy’s conformity to the wishes of white man. His acceptance of the scholarship symbolizes his acceptance of separation between the two societies as “it was a scholarship to the state college for Negroes.” Although the boy realizes that whites and blacks are restricted to societal confines that can never merge and never become equal, the boy fails to see the force exercised by the whites that lock him into this box. When he prioritizes materialistic wealth, “smelling the fresh leather” of the brief case over his own dignity, he resigns himself to the desires of society in that he blinds himself with affluence and thus becomes incapable of realizing his own visions. This is further strengthened by the boy’s quote “I felt an importance that I had never dreamed” because it implies that he no longer needs his dignity in order to achieve a feeling of success. It provides him with self-respect and happiness that prevent him from questioning the advantages of conformity. Stripped from his pride and naively reaching for wealth he contributes to his own confinement as he goes to “attend college” in order to “shape the destiny of [his] people” and thus fulfills the plans of whites. While the boy puts his destiny in the hands of white society, he conforms to the rules of white control.
Despite the boy’s conformity to white rule, he continues to struggle in discovering his dignity. The repetition of the word “blood” serves as an important symbol for the boy’s dignity; it signifies the pride he