Battle of a Black Man
Ralph Ellison made it clear that Invisible Man was not based on his own experiences. In an interview, he stated, “Let me say right now that my book is not an autobiographical work.” However, it is clear that his culture and the time period of his upbringing affected his writing. This is particularly seen in his descriptions of the treatment of blacks, the African American society, and the revelation of the narrator.
Like the characters in “Battle Royal”, African Americans have to fight each other in real life because whites leave them so little (Brent 2). The white society sees itself as superior; therefore, it does not provide for African Americans. Blacks are then forced to compete within themselves in life. To show how cruel the white society really is, Ellison compares the group of white men in the “smoke scene” to a pack of wolves. “A wolf is a predator, and the racist white society preys upon the disempowered black community like a pack of wolves” (Brent 3). They are also described as a lion, which is also a predatory animal. This predatory treatment is shown so well through animal imagery, which is seen so much in Invisible Man. The young black men are also described as animals. They are “crowded into” and “led out of” the elevator. They are described as rats. Rats are rodents, the lowest of the lowest. This is how blacks are treated, no better than rodents (Brent 3). One black man is even described as a horse, “a beast of burden,” symbolizing the fact that he is meant to work and serve whites (Brent 3).
Brent states,”The animal imagery implies that the treatment of African Americans by
whites is animalistic and inhumane. On the other hand, the animal imagery in the story
reinforces the message that the white men treat the African-American men as if they are
no better than animals. Further, the circus animal imagery indicates that these young
African-American men are being treated as trained animals-they are being taught by...
Cited: Brent, Liz. "Critical Essay on "The Invisible Man; or, Battle Royal."" Short Stories for Students 11 (2001): n. pag. Literature Resource Center. Web. 9 July 2013.
Ellison, Ralph. "Battle Royal." The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. 9th ed. Boston: Bedford, 2011. N. pag. 277-287 Print.
Ellison, Ralph. "An Interview." Paris Review 114 (1955): 53-55. Literature Resource Center. Web. 9 July 2013.
German, Norman. "Imagery in the 'Battle Royal ' Chapter of Ralph Ellison 's Invisible Man." CLA Journal 31.4 106 (1988): 394-99. Literature Resource Center. Web. 9 July 2013.
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