A Battle Royal for Equality: An Analysis of Ralph Ellison’s “Battle Royal”
“Battle Royal” provides a realistic portrait of the difficulty of being a black person in a Country dominated by white men. Ellison uses several symbols in “Battle Royal” to illustrate the black struggle for equality. These symbols include the stripper, the flag tattoo on the stripper’s stomach, the blindfold, and the battle itself. The stripper is symbolic of the connection between women and black people in the eyes of white men, and her tattoo symbolizes the freedom that the black men want. The blindfold is symbolic of the narrator’s blindness to the actions of the white men, as well as the limitations binding black people, and most evidently, the battle royal symbolizes the black fight for equality. The stripper, as a symbol in “Battle Royal,” contributes to Ellison’s description of the struggle for equality. She is symbolic of how little choice both women and black people have in a world dominated by white males. Ellison writes, “Some threatened us if we looked and others if we did not” (Ellison 265). The black men are reprimanded for watching the stripper, which is not permitted during the time period, as well as for looking away from the stripper. This left the men with no feasible option and serves as a reminder to the blacks that the white men have control over the situation. The stripper also has virtually no choice because she must dance, though she does not want to, for the white and black men. Ellison writes of the stripper’s lack of enthusiasm: “As the dancer flung herself about with a detached expression on her face, the men began reaching out to touch her” (Ellison 265). She is also viewed by the white men in the same manner the black men are viewed: less than a person. This is shown by the narrator of the story observing the stripper’s reaction to being touched, chased, and lifted into the air by drunken white men: “I saw the terror and disgust in her...
Cited: Ellison, Ralph. “Battle Royal.” The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Comp. Michael Meyer.
Boston: Bedford, 2005. 262-272.
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