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2020-11-23T18:04 [writing/homework age/university] Battle Royale

Sam Hatfield

Professor Mayhan


Battle Royal: only the audience wins

This visceral short story by Ralph Ellison would soon become the widely acclaimed Invisible Man, a great novel about racial injustice. The Battle Royal of racial relations is duked out in the narrator’s life in a boxing ring.

The narrator, invited to a local ball for his speaking abilities, is encouraged to participate in the fight, because “the battle royal came first.” Although the literal meaning of this phrase can be understood as ‘the battle royal is the first event of the ball’, another way this phrase maybe understood as is, ‘the battle royal was the most important’. The proof of this reading is found in the observation that the fight was the ball’s entertainment, and thus is more important than other formalities.

The first thing that happens to the boys is being blindfolded. I make the connection between the blindfolds the boys have to blinders on horses, or other racing animals—it’s an attempt to even the odds for the fair competition between nonhumans, because they cannot be trusted to be so themselves. When the narrator tries to take his off, he is yelled at, “Oh, no you don’t, black bastard! Leave that alone!” The dehumanization that takes place in the racist mind explains the boy’s blindfolds.When the fight starts, the narrator immediately starts to get beat up, so he fights back; however, he “could no longer control my motions. [He] had no dignity.” The narrator attempts to feign being knocked out, but he was picked up, and forced to fight more. In the audience’s mind, these boys were fighting for their entertainment, and therefore cannot stop prior to their satisfaction. In the Battle Royal, only the audience wins.