Battle Royal

Battle Royal Ralph Ellison's short story "Battle Royal" depicts the confusion that fills the mind of a young black man trying to survive in a society where those who are white have all the power and those who are black are their puppets. This young man is torn between two choices on how to prosper in life. One choice is to follow his grandfather's life and not humiliate himself to please white men. The other choice is to be submissive and follow white men's laws and desires. The confusion that afflicts the narrator is made clear in the story. ellison expresses himself through symbolism and slang to communicate the abundant emotions that govern the narrator. . The grandfather is a device used by Ellison to foreshadow heavily the rest of the story . Appearing at the beginning and the end, the grandfather provides a lesson to the young narrator which his parents then tell him to ignore "Son, after I'm gone I want you to keep up a good fight. I never told you, but your 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'em to death and destruction, let'em swoller you till they vomit or burst wide open Learn it to the younguns" These last words that his grand father speaks are the chain-breakers that set the young boy's mind free. What hit's him the hardest is finding out that his people are in an ongoing fight, a war for freedom and equality. And it is these words that guide him on the right path to the realization of who he is, and how he needs to start thinking and acting. However this path that his grandfather sets him on, is one that presents many mind-tormenting problems. How will his people treat him if he takes on a rebellious attitude? Also if he refuses to fight for his rights what will his deceased grandfather think of him? These questions torment the boy's mind and soul. In his mind he literally sets himself between two hard places. This boy and all like him live in a white dominated society , and the white men in the society can be seen as the puppeteers. In his society the black people are chained down in a reality in which the white dominating society imposes certain morals or principles by which the black community needs to act. However unlike the people around him, he is able to break the chains that imprison his mind and see how things really work. He first gets a true sense in what kind of society he lives when he is invited to give his graduation speech at Battle Royal. Battle Royal is a sort of a barbarous boxing mach in which black boys with blindfolds are forced to fight each other for the entertainment of certain town's men. The boys are blinded by a white blindfold - an easy metaphor - which the narrator circumvents in order to approach the battle royal slightly less like an animal. Before he moved the blindfold though, he notes that he had never truly experienced darkness before and it scared him. Our hero is also made to participate in this activity. "I was shocked to see some of the most important men of the town quite tipsy." he says when he sees who is there, " They were all there-bankers, lawyers, judges, doctors, fire chiefs, teachers, merchants. Even one of the more fashionable pastors." After the fight, in front of that drunk and perverted crowd of white influential males he is going to present his graduation speech, a speech that address "Social responsibility". Increasing the hypocrisy embedded in the upright citizens gathering, the men not only fail to listen to the speech but yell to the narrator to speak up when his throat is choked by blood. Nauseated and overwhelmed, he makes the mistake of saying "social equality" instead of "social responsibility" and is almost thrown out of the room. Only by thoroughly swallowing the hypocrisy of the room and the events he has had to participate in can he finally exit