Ralph Ellison begins the short story, “Battle Royal”, in some what of a state of confusion. The nameless narrator informs the reader that he has been essentially lost in the early twenty years of his life. The narrator’s grandfather adds to his confusion and the overall purpose of the story. While on his death bed, the grandfather claims to be a traitor and a spy. He charges his family to “overcome ‘em with yeses“(258, paragraph 2) and “undermine ‘em with grins”(258, paragraph 2) as he lays preparing for death. A point that the narrator subconsciously internalized, the reader sees through the series of actions and point of view of the narrator the use of role playing among blacks. For if this method is followed, blacks are able to refuse internally to accept second class status, protect their own self respect, and avoid betraying themselves or each other.
The grandfather’s words had a tremendous effect on the psyche of the narrator. Almost like a puzzle that couldn’t be solved that lay in the back of his mind. At points he found his self resenting his grandfather’s words regardless of the success he obtained. In spite of this, he still could see his self through his actions carrying out his grandfather’s advice of meekness and humility towards the white man. On the narrator’s graduation day he delivered a speech which showed that “humility was the secret, indeed, the very essence of progress.”(248, paragraph 3). For this speech, he gained praise from the white men of the town, because he exhibited the attitude that the white man thought to be “desirable conduct”(248, paragraph 3). He was then invited to give the speech on behalf of the town’s leading officials. Ellison uses the example of the narrator’s speech of humility to show that the white man in that time period can be manipulated. The narrator conveys humbleness in his speech to the white man, without showing any idea of equality to him. In return, the narrator is rewarded and...
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