The Theme Of Racism In Ralph Ellison's Battle Royal

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The short story “Battle Royal” was written by Ralph Ellison, set during the 1950’s racism is very noticeable and you will be stunned by how the blacks are treated. Ralph Ellison was born in Oklahoma in 1914 and later attended Tuskegee Institute in Alabama where he studied music. In 1936 he moved to New York City and planned to work at a job in order to pay off college. Little did he know he would get the chance to work from the New York Federal Writers Program. He gained himself a reputation as a writer off of one book, “Invisible Man” and became successful. The short story “Battle Royal” is set in the 1950’s where racism is very much alive, the difference in the skin colors of the characters is a very evident symbol. The way that the blacks…show more content…
A black high school graduate has been invited to a elite ballroom to give his graduating speech to a group of white men. Once arriving, he is forced into a boxing ring to fight other black men. Once he is done serving as the entrainment for the white men and being beat up, he presents his speech and ultimately receives a scholarship to a state college. In “Battle Royal” you first get a glimpse of the cultural differences when he arrives at the hotel. “When I got there I discovered that it was on the occasion of a smoker… All of the town’s big shots were there in their tuxedo’s, wolfing down the buffet foods, drinking beer, and whiskey and smoking black cigars” (234). When the black man walks in he is in for a surprise. Although he knew he was giving his speech to white men, he didn’t know that it was to the elite white men of the town. These men symbolize that not everything you see is true and that you can’t always believe everyone. Outside of the ballroom these men are seen as higher ups in the social ladder and someone you would certainly not want to mess with because of their position they hold in…show more content…
Another thing the fight symbolizes is that he doesn’t to have a say in anything. He didn’t have a choice as to if he wanted to be in the fight or not. He was told what to do and a refusal would not be accepted because whites are superior compared to him. Another example of cultural differences and symbolism is the American flag on the naked womans stomach. “...the small American flag tattooed upon her belly…” (235). This American flag symbolizes freedom and equality to all who live here. With freedom and equality it should apply to all not just the select few. The blacks most definitely don’t get a chance to experience freedom or be treated equally. Instead they are being taken advantage of and belittled by the whites. The black man in “Battle Royal” is also looking to work hard and live the American dream in this story. The American flag is also a symbol of the American dream. It shows that everyone should have an equal opportunity and that if you work hard you will make a living for yourself and succeed. He is really trying to make it in this segregated world he lives in but is pushed around the majority of the
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