Ralph Ellison's Battle Royal
Ralph Ellison's Battle Royal provides a realistic perspective of a Negro man striving to live in a nation dominated by white supremacy. The story speaks of the conflicts between the white and blacks as well as the conflicts that arise within the narrator and himself. Battle Royal resembles a black man’s place in society, the American Dream, and the use of symbolism to convey this thought. Ellison uses symbols and imagery to engage the readers by bringing them to a time period in history where social equality frowned upon. Society in the 1900s was very different in terms of the social status among the American people. In the 1900s, blacks were strongly discriminated against the whites. Discrimination was not against the law as blacks were deemed free but must be segregated against the whites. The idea of a white dominate society was still in existent. Ellison was born (in the year 1914) into this era of racial discrimination and segregation. The story begins with the narrator reminiscing about the past when his grandfather was on his deathbed. The grandfather delivers a speech to the narrator that proves to haunt the narrator for the rest of his life. The grandfather said, “Son, after I'm gone, I want you to keep up the good fight. I never told you, but our life is a war and I have been a traitor all my born days, a spy in the enemy's country ever since I give up my gun back in the Reconstruction. Live with your head in the lion's mouth. I want you to overcome 'em with yeses, undermine 'em with grins, agree to death and destruction, let 'em swoller you till they vomit or bust wide open” (Ellison 258). The narrator was extremely puzzled with the words from his grandfather; he had thought that his grandfather had gone insane. The flashback the narrator has reminds himself of his roots, his grandfather had taunted him with his dying speech for the rest of the narrator’s life. The narrator had been living as a rebel and a traitor...
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