October 24

English 4 Battle Royal


Think about symbolism in the “Battle Royal”.  Ellison uses the most provocative symbols imaginable –when we think about race in America.  We can think of so many ties to modern circumstances and controversies. Identify at least two symbols from “Battle Royal” and decide what they symbolize and how you know that from what Ellison wrote.  Go to the text.  Be ready to discuss and throw out responses.  And follow up questions.  I’ll leave this forum open until Wednesday night.  Feel free to return and add more comments.  You are able to reply to other students.  The same standards for discussion apply here as in class.

In general, for the “Battle Royal” class discussion, feel free to:  1) pose Socratic Seminar-type questions for your classmates, 2) make comments to extend the conversation  3)  highlight relevant points within the text

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Posted October 24, 2017 by tashak38 in category Uncategorized

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40 thoughts on “English 4 Battle Royal

  1. Kiera Thomas

    One of the things that stood out to me in Ralph Ellison’s short story Battle Royal was when the speaker mentions his grandfather and the last words he spoke on his deathbed. As I continued to read and realized the speaker did not only mention him once but multiple times I figured this symbolizes how our ancestors still affect us today, specifically African Americans. His grandfather was implying that the battle against whites will never end but it is up to us to play along until we work our way up and be more than who they want us to be. Another symbol I caught was when the African Americans were first blind folded to do as the whites say then “rewarded” with coins that were electrifying. This symbolizes how even after slavery, whites have the power to make African Americans obey their demands and in the end they’ll receive money. This reminds me of how today many African Americans work for the white man in hopes of gaining financial support but in the process it’s slowly demeaning who we are. Overall, I came to conclusion that the speaker is trying to figure out who he is based off what his grandfather told him and how we can portray this image without getting in trouble for it.

  2. jordanmh

    A couple things stood out to me while reading Battle Royal one was the white woman dancing in the ring. On page 273 “… and yet to stroke where below the small American flag tattooed upon her belly..” I saw this to be the American Dream, the dream of freedom and equality being teased in the face of minorities. When in the end there’s prices to pay such as getting beat in the ring.
    1) What did you guys see the white woman to symbolize?
    Second the social responsibility and how he said social equality was a mistake. On page 280 I finally felt like I understood what his grandfather meant a being a traitor. He smiled and agreed his whole way through, he was quiet and agreeable. But he did that to get by. He knew he was black and he knew they deserved better but the only way to get better was to act less hence being a traitor.
    In the end I believe he was living his grandfather’s life. The speaker agreed with white men, made a fool of himself, but yet got the scholarship to college. So on page 281, ” To Whom It May Concern, Keep This Nigger-Boy Running” as his grandfather laughed and faded away to me t just showed it all fell into place and it’s not even close to over for the speaker.

  3. Mitchell Reed

    In “Battle Royal” by Ralph Ellison, I believe that the dancing woman, introduced in paragraph 7, is symbolic to the rumor that all Black men desire a White American woman which as a Black man myself, I can say that this rumor is not true for every Black man of course. I am attracted to women period, no matter what race they happen to be. I do have some friends however that only look for a White female, which I think not smart ( just to be nice ).
    I also believe that the blind-folded boxing, in paragraph 10, is symbolic to the blind hatred for Black people in America by racist White Americans in the past and present. With the blindfolds on, they couldn’t see what they were hitting nor know what they were hitting which is similar to the affects of segregation. Many White Americans didn’t know any Black people let alone have seen a Black person before. They just went off of what they were told about Black people.

  4. Erika coker

    The first symbol i got from the essay “Battle Royal” by Ralph Ellison was the title itself . Because in my opinion the battle-represented the battle of inequality . The second thing i thought had symbolic meaning to it was the money rug I feel it symbolized how African Americans in that point in time had to struggle just to get money. Or even sometimes embarrass themselves by doing things they did not want to do just to get money. Like in the essay the men were trying to get the money off of the rug even after they realized it was electrifying. They were willing to go through pain just to get the money. It was a really good essay so much vivid imagery that caught my attention.

  5. Lyanne Nisperos

    Lyanne Nisperos
    English 4

    In the short story “Battle Royal”(1952), Ralph Ellison displays his struggles as a young African American living in a racist, unequal society where people of color are not seen as humans. He specifically tells the story of being blindfolded, thrown into a boxing ring and being forced to fight for the entertainment of drunk white men in tuxedos. Ellison’s purpose is to inform people that this is, in fact, his reality and to paint a picture of this inhumane experience.
    In this story, he depicts symbolism continuously in order to show the inequality and brutality brought upon people of color. A symbol he uses is the battle itself: “But as we tried to leave we were stopped and ordered to get into the ring. There was nothing to do but what we were told. All ten of us climbed under the ropes and allowed ourselves to be blindfolded with broad bands of white cloth.”(274) This symbolized the African Americans’ fight for equality and the hardships they endured just to be accepted and known equal to white men in this segregated society. Them being blindfolded also is a symbol. They fought in this ring blindly not knowing why or who they were fighting, they just had to fight. This is resemblant of the people fighting for their right just to be known as human or equal. No one really understood why they were being hated on just for the color of their skin and why the white population felt superior to them.
    Another symbol in the story is the briefcase he received at the end after delivering his speech. “I felt an importance that I had never dreamed… It was a scholarship to the state college for Negroes. My eyes filled with tears and I ran awkwardly off the floor.”(281) Ellison’s initial goal was to deliver the speech and prove the meekness and intelligence he had and after all that had happened he was rewarded with nothing he ever imagined. This symbolized a voice for all Afr-Am’s and the persistence he brought upon them was rewarded.

  6. Jose Jacinto Jr

    In “Battle Royal” by Ralph Ellison there are quite a few examples of great symbolism used, but there were two that stood out the most. In paragraph two the speaker tells us the story of his grandfathers curse, referring to the last words his grandfather spoke before passing. “Live with your head in the lions mouth. I want you to overcome them with yeses, undermine ’em with grins, agree ’em to death and destruction, let ’em swoller you till they vomit or bust wide open.”(P. 271) this quote symbolized how in order for a black man to get ahead, he has to comply with what the white man wants. African Americans must conform to the white society, otherwise any rebellious action would get them killed by Anti-Black groups.

    The second example of symbolism that stood out was the stripper, symbolizing the “Perfect” American woman, Blonde and Blue eyed, African American men potentially faced prosecution for even looking at one of these women. “The hair was yellow like that of a circus kewpie doll, the face heavily powdered and rouged, as though to form an abstract mask, the eyes hollow and smeared a cool blue, the color of a baboon’s butt. I felt a desire to spit upon her as my eyes brushed slowly over her body. Her breasts were firm and round as the domes of East Indian temples, and I stood so close as to see the fine skin texture and beads of pearly perspiration glistening like dew around the pink and erected buds of her nipples. I wanted at one and the same time to run from the room, to sink through the floor, or go to her and cover her from my eyes and the eyes of the others with my body; to feel the soft thighs, to caress her and destroy her, to love her and murder her, to hide from here and yet stroke where below the small American flag tattoo upon her belly her thighs formed a capital V. I had a notion that of all in the room she saw only me with her impersonal eyes.” (P.273) symbolizing the control the white men had over the black men. Not just the “perfect” American woman, but the American Dream in general, one of the many things white men could have that black men couldn’t.

    Some questions I had come up with while writing my response:

    1) What do you think about the ending of the story, what does it symbolize?

    2) How does Ellison’s short story relate to Langston Hughes poem “Harlem”?

  7. Milan Lopes

    Ralph Ellison short story Battle Royal depicts an African American man’s struggle to get ahead within a racist white southern society while following the last wishes of his grandfather.
    One of the symbols in the short story I’d like to discuss is the naked white woman in the ring. The woman symbolizes America’s greed. She has an American tattoo and seems detached from her audience. She dances for the entertainment of the rich white men, but also enthrall the boys about to fight. The narrator feels the attraction but feels guilty about it. She ends up being flung across the room and narrowly escapes the drunken men, from those who were still mostly sober, much like America is often saved by laws fought by the few good politicians with good intentions.

    The second symbol that intrigued me was the fight itself. The fight represents the lower and middle class fighting for the entertainment and pleasure of the rich one percent. The wealthy white elite. The boys beat each other almost to death at the orders of the men. In paragraph 26 of the 11th edition on page 366 Ellison says “ I’ll break your behind,” he whispers hoarsely. “For them?” “For me, sonofabitch!” This reminds me of modern day gangs. Gang members can be from the same city, be the same race, and have the Same socioeconomic struggles but their hatred is fueled towards each other. I feel as though this fight perfectly symbolizes how the rich have turned the poor against each other by dividing the people by their race, city, or “gang”.

    A socrative.com type question I might have for my peers would be, why did everyone seem friendly after the men announced they could receive their money?

    Why did the narrator agree to fight?

  8. Thanh Ton

    In Ralph Ellison’s short story, “Battle Royal”(1952), the story revolves around a young African American boy who faces many different types of racism during that time. What this short story symbolizes the struggles that African Americans had to go through during that time. Prior to his grandfather’s death, his grandfather said many things but my favorite line was, “Live with your head in the lion’s mouth.” This phrase is very symbolic of how you should live life knowing even if there is an endangering obstacle ahead of you, you shouldn’t see it as an obstacle but to learn from it. This was also symbolic of how it was live as an African American during that time. It was like you were in a lion’s mouth at all time.

    In page 2, he was invited to “give a speech” at a gathering of the town’s leading white citizens. He said it was a “Triumph for the whole community.” However, he was given a pair of boxing gloves instead and was placed within this battle royal. The fact that all the leading White citizens took part of watching these fellow African American males attack each other like animals for the sake of entertainment is symbolic of how ruthless people were to one another just because they were not of the same skin tone. They were tricked yet again when they were told they were given “free money” but that money was fake and the rug had been filled with electricity to shock them. This is also symbolic of how easy it is to trust someone’s lies when we want to acquire what we need to survive. We all want to acquire a large sum of money because we believe having money is the key to happiness. For example, many people purchase scratchers and lottery tickets just for a chance to get a large sum of money even though chances are slim.

  9. Karina Barillas

    This story is packed with deliberately picked words, phrases, and symbols. It is obvious that Ellison is trying to evoke emotions and reactions to what we are reading. One of the most prominent symbols I recognized was the treatment of the black men and the fight they were forced into in general. While reading, I couldn’t help but identify the behavior towards these men/”fighters,” by the white man, as an example of how they ultimately see people of color. They were forced together to fight and behave as animals with no dignity, typically how the white man feels towards POC.
    One other symbol that I found compelling was in the ending of the story. The speaker mentions a dream he had about his Grandfather, in which they were at a circus and his grandfather “refused to laugh at the clowns no matter what they did” (281). This resonated with me as the Grandfather finally refusing to fall in line with the white folks, or in this case, laugh at the clowns. At the top of page 272 the speaker mentions that he was “considered an example of desirable conduct-just as my grandfather had been.” I feel that this was the grand conclusion and realization for the speaker, in connection to the beginning of the story.

  10. Poonam Khatri

    In Ralph Ellison’s short story Battle Royal one thing that stood out to me the most page 275 start of 3rd paragraph ” blind folded, i could no longer control my motions. I had no dignity. I stumbled about like a baby or a drunken man. The smoke had become thicker and with each new blow it seemed to sear and further restrict my lungs. My saliva became like hot bitter glue.” He was trying to survive in a white society.

  11. Lyzette Madero

    1) One symbol I notic was in the main character dream when he was opening the envelopes with the state’s seal and his grandfather told him “Them’s years,”. To me it seems like the envelops symbolize the years that the mean character has been looking for himself. I believe this because at the beginning of Ellison story he writes that the mean character has been looking for a long time, about twenty years to discover himself, that he would keep asking others questions that only he alone can answer. Until one day he discovered, “that I am nobody but myself.” It sounds like that is the whole reason why the main character is telling this story in the first place. To explain how he got the briefcase and the scholarship money to go to college and later on found out what he’s recurring dream means.

    2) The second symbol I notes is when the main character says at the beginning of the story, “But first I had to discover that I am an invisible man!” The symbol that the author writes is “invisible man”, to me I think it means that the main character is not treated fairly because of the color of his skin. During the story the main character is told to read his graduation speech to the “gathering of the town’s leading white citizens”. But when he got there they have him to participate in the battle royal as entertainment before he give his speech. He is beaten many times. Once he was told to give his speech some of the other men would ignore him or they would keep interrupting him and telling him to speak louder. They did not treat him with respect as their guest speaker, they treated him as their entertainment.

  12. Tomas

    Ralph Ellison’s Narrative, “Battle Royal”, is emblematic in several distinct ways.

    In one way it’s emblematic of the African Americans’ struggle for equality during our country’s history. The many hardships the narrator has to Survive, inside their own quest to offer his speech, are representative of all the many hardships Which the blacks went through in their struggle for equality.

    He’s regarded as among those more brilliant youths within his black community. The young guy is given the chance to provide a speech to a number of the more prestigious white people. The harsh treatment that he’s dealt to be able to execute his job is very symbolic. It reflects the numerous hardships that the African American people suffered while they struggled to be treated both in the USA. He expects to present his address in a beneficial and standard atmosphere. The harsh conditions that the boys competing at the battle royal should confront are phenomenal. In the beginning, the boys have been ushered to an area where an unclothed girl is dancing. The white guys shout in the boys for looking rather than looking at the girl. It’s as if they’re showing them all of the fantastic things being whitened can bring, and then stating that they aren’t great enough for it because they were shameful. Next, the boys need to compete at the battle royal. This is emblematic of the African Americans’ struggle for equality. It signifies the struggle they suffered, to be considered equals with all our society’s white inhabitants, upon the abolition of slavery. Blindly, our state’s black inhabitants fought, not necessarily understanding what for, just like the boys in this narrative fought. The segregation of restaurants, schools, and other public amenities were issues which were fiercely fought over.

    These conflicts are directly represented with the barbarous struggling by 10 boys at a ring, being seen by whites in large social status. Totally engrossed from the combating these guys cried unkind things and became frantic. That can be representative of the how our state’s white inhabitants treated African Americans for several decades. Frequently they took a position of power, feeling superior to the black minorities. This belief is depicted from the men’s furious action against the boys.

    The electrified rug another major part of this narrative. The boys have been given the chance to take coins and bills from a rug, following the battle royal was finished. As they catch for the price that they get jolts of power from the carpet. The boys discover that it’s extremely difficult not to reach for the money despite the fact that they will undergo much pain in doing this. Even Though segregation became an Ultimate Comprehension that the blacks Needed to Endure considerably. Blacks attending colleges with whites still had to survive racial prejudices and misjudgments by a lot of the populace. The boys at “Battle Royal” were awarded the chance to find cash, but they needed to endure the physical pain of being clubbed in the procedure. The white guys again are entertained with these activities just as guys throughout the years have been entertained with the actions of African American’s. The elephants were awarded things but with a cost attached to it simply as the boys were.

    The fantasy that the narrator has in the conclusion of the narrative is essential also. He explains his grandfather as having him open envelope after envelope, eventually attaining one which held a record. Narrator wrote, “To Whom It May Concern, Keep this Nigger-Boy Running.” This represents lots of the hardships that the African American people needed to cope with over the years. Despite the fact that the narrator has been extended a level of respect by providing his address it wasn’t nearly enough. The whites gave him his briefcase and congratulated him and that was it. The dream proves that they were simply throwing the narrator off, not actually giving him anything legitimate in any way. They said it was a “Nice job,” but this is actually isn’t much whatsoever. The white guys still felt a feeling of excellence, sending the narrator off to occupy himself with activities which they felt were applicable. He felt great about all of this at the moment, but he will only be living the life which the whites picture he ought to possess. This reflects what occurred in our country’s history too. The whites attempted to appease our country’s black people by giving them specific rights but not actually permitting them to be truly equivalent.

    Ralph Ellison’s short story, “Battle Royal” is quite important. It’s Representative of the numerous struggles and hardships that our country’s African American people endured through history.

  13. cesar Montes

    Is this a Socratic seminar???

    one question i had was: why did the narrator decide to start the story with his grandfathers death? & did anyone find it confusing?

    I really enjoyed “Battle Royal” by Ralph Ellison, it is really dramatic and the imagery is massive. Ellison is very clear on the story and at the beginning he has the reader confused “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.”(P2), we don’t know why his grandfather said that he was a traitor and a spy my first though was he did something wrong, against his race, it fills your head with questions with those words. However on of the following sentences was, “Live with your head in the lion’s mouth.” To me, this is to live on the edge, making Ellison aware of his surrounding, at period he meant society. The second chapter kind of leaves a gap in the story and i had the sense that it was key that Ellison will complete that gap.

    Ellison graduates and he is chosen to deliver a speech at a gathering of the towns important people. I sounds like good news but it ends up being a battle royal. I tried to understand why Ellison followed trough with the battle. Then came the naked white lady. he is really descriptive of the situation. AT the end of the book there is a question; why a naked white woman? the scenario is: the woman dancing naked around them and the narrator mentions that all the African american are looking down, while all the white important man chant. in this period there was segregation in the south and the African American struggle in the south even though they gain “freedom” the white woman was a symbol something that is forbidden to African Americans, this woman is the fruit that they cannot touch or desire it is a crime. Also the woman symbol has a relation to the men in the ring; woman where never above man just like the the African American they are not above the white man. It falls in the category of the ignorant Macho type men. I wonder why he didn’t leave???

    1. Karina Barillas

      I simply think the reason he started with the grandfathers death was because the speaker came right back around to the grandfather at the end, where he has a dream of him and says he’ll remember it for many years after.

      1. cesar Montes

        I do agree.
        I also believe that his Grandfathers last words will keep reminding Ellison on what he is suppose to do in hard situations. he may look like a traitor to the country or too his own people but he had a difficult decision to make. Ellison or narrator went through many undesirable things but to him delivering his speech was important, when he finally had a chance these upper class important people were interruptive and they showed no respect. All beaten up and trying to speak up with a bloody mouth he makes a mistake, a mistake that brought some tension in the crowd.it surprise me that after Ellison said “social equality” these people had to clarify what he said, you have a this high class people angered in a second its like you are putting your life at risk or like his grandfather said “Live with your head on the in the lions mouth.” Ellison thought that his grandfathers words was a curse but it seem that it is reality we face so many injustice things in our society and we must find a way to keep surviving, or making tough decisions because there will always be that type of class that will want to keep people in place. what happened in battle royal is undesirable because pride is at risk, but dealing with a segregated time period it shows the limits to where pride can lead. After Ellison got his scholarship to college I had Was filled with joy and his grandfathers dream at the end was a little it gives a sense of happiness over what Ellison still has to do.

  14. Alexander Ruiz

    In Ralph Ellison’s “Battle Royal” I saw the “important men”(p.272) as a symbol for the upper class in our society and the fighters chosen for the battle royal as the lower class. The relationship they had with each other is very reminiscent of how the social classes in our society interact with each other. The important men watching the fight felt safe and sound cheering on and harassing the fighters while the fighters had only the thought of survival and victory on their mind. This relates to how the upper class in our society don’t have to worry about going check to check and worrying if they’ll have enough money to make it to tomorrow and they have no problem watching the lower class struggle as they prosper. Moreover, the lower class relate to the fighters because they working everyday to survive and at the same time trying to climb to the top and become wealthy but are faced with major obstacles just like the fighters did. Another symbol I saw in the story was the whole scene where the important men gave the fighters a chance at free money but the free money was fake coins and on an electrified fence from pages 277 to 279. This scene symbolized the idea of false hope that is given to the lower class to gain wealth through easy means but in realty it only hurts them more. An example of this in our society is the lottery because they advertise it as easy money you could win with as little as a dollar but this can lead to those with too much hope spending everything they have to try and win even though the odds are heavily stacked against them.

      1. tashak38 (Post author)

        I read your comment on the discussion board. Combined w this one, wow! Beautifully insightful and I appreciate how you tie the characters to societal positions of class, race etcetera.

  15. Annalese Mallory

    The short story, “Battle Royal”, written by Ralph Ellison, is filled with symbolism relating to struggles that African Americans endure when trying to live in a society where they are not seen as equals. Two of the symbols that stood out to me were the speech the narrator gave and also the dream that he had at the end of the story.
    At the end of the third paragraph, the narrator says, “Everyone praised me and I was invited to give a speech at a gathering of the town’s leading white citizens. It was a triumph for our whole community.” To him, being invited to give the speech was an honor and a possible way to gain approval and acceptance from these “leading white citizens”; but before he can even begin his speech, he has to participate in cruel forms of entertainment for the white men. Eventually, after finishing the battle royal and picking up coins off of the electrified rug, he is finally able to give his speech. When he was, the men weren’t even listening to him and they weren’t concerned with his current state. “I spoke automatically and with such fervor that I did not realize that the men were still talking and laughing until my dry mouth, filling up with blood from the cut, almost strangled me” (p. 369). If this was really a way for the narrator to be honored, they would have been respectful. To me, this is a symbol of the fight that African Americans struggle through in order to gain respect, only to be let down.
    Another symbol that stood out to me was the dream that he had at the end of the story with his grandpa. In the dream, he had the brief case with the envelope in it that he had been given after his speech; instead of the envelope containing the scholarship that he had been proud to receive, it contained a letter that said “Keep This Nigger-Boy Running.” This symbolizes that the scholarship was given to him in order to make him feel a false sense of progress in society. It is a symbol of how African Americans are made to keep fighting for equality and only achieve as much progress as they are allowed by others in society.

  16. Jenella

    In Ralph Ellison’s short story, “Battle Royal”, Ellison as a young African American man experience the struggle of inequality and self identity in a racist American society. Which he By telling his own experiences as the narrative of the story, Ellison states several significant symbols such as, the death of his grandfather; the blindfolded battle for whites entertainment; and the speech he delivered after so many hardships.

    As the narrator, Ellison is also a symbol to the other African Americans. Which they all struggled to survive and be successful in society. Especially when America has a negative history of racism and slavery. One of the prominent symbol is at the beginning of the story. Ellison uses his grandfather’s words foreshadowing his later encounter. Ellison’s grandfather tells Ellison “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 ’em to death and destruction, let ’em swoller you till they vomit or bust wide open.”(271) His grandfather calls himself a traitor makes me think how he has transformed to a “traitor”. Which he represent the ancestor of slavery in American society and he has no choice other than obeying to white people. As he metaphoric describes the whites as lions, and tells Ellison to live his head in the lion’s mouth. I think he is trying to telling Ellison the only way to survival and protect themselves is to conform to the lion instead of fight against them. Recall the historical facts that black slaves are mostly depend on their masters, once they are trying to escape or against them, they were mostly imprisoned or beat to death.

    On the later part of the story, Ellison support his ideas with his experience by participating in the battle royal, he describes: “There was nothing to do but what we were told. All ten of us climbed under the ropes and allowed ourselves to be blindfolded with broad bands of white cloth.”(273) It shows ten of them were all following the commands and allowed to be blindfolded. And the way they passively blinded symbolize their loss of self identity and how they become “invisible” at the same time. Which the white people will automatically ignore and defy their human rights. As Ellison says: “That I am nobody but myself. But first I had to discover that I’m an invisible man !”(271) As a black person, people will systematically see him as “invisible”, which is a sense of ignorance by them to refuse to see him. And because of the bias of his ethnicity, he is unable to get rid of such stereotype towards himself. Therefore, he realizes that as a black man, life is a struggle for them to survive and achieve goals.

    Ellison writes his story in first person. And because of that, I can strongly feel his emotional appeal while he is telling his own story. His purpose is to bring attention to issues that related to people around us. And in order to accomplish change, he brings up social problems to readers and question people’s belief towards racism. Which human being should not be undermined because of one’s ethnicity. And Ellison’s story shows the importance to fight against the judgements under all conditions.

  17. Adrian Gallegos

    In my opinion, I feel like the grandfather in the first page would symbolize like determination. In the second paragraph, it says “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 bust wide open” (271) Since this was written during the 1950s, there were segregation in the education and the author gave a setting in the story there are less opportunities for different races, but the grandfather in the story had an experience before from segregation and from slavery and he is telling the speaker (or the author) to be determined to the road that you’re good. That means the grandfather can symbolize the idea of determination in the reading.

    1. Poonam Khatri

      one quote to relate to your point on page 271 in the last paragraph “whenever things went well for me i remembered my grandfather and felt guilty and uncomfortable. it was as thought i was carrying out his advice in spite of my self. And to make it worse everyone loved me for it.” this quote really shows how he his grandfather was an ”desirable conduct” that shows the idea that your saying determination. His grandfathers determination.

  18. Christian Valle

    In Ralph Ellison’s short story “Battle Royal” (1952), he explains the difficulties of a young African American man growing up and living in a mostly white society. Through thick and thin, he tries to remember the last words said to him by his grandfather, “I want you to overcome’ em with yeses, undermine’ em with grins, agree ’em to death and destruction, let ‘em swallow you till they vomit or bust wide open” (361). The young man lives by these words spoken by his grandfather because he believes it is the key to getting out the shadow of the white man. Throughout the story Ralph Ellison uses symbolism to depict the actual struggle and difficulties an African American has to go through to get the self acknowledgment and equality one should deserve.

    Ellison continuously depicts symbolism throughout the short story to prove the difficulties African Americans had to endure as young men. One symbol that Ralph Ellison uses is the opportunity the young men were given to receive free money from the rich white men at the battle. But it wasn’t actually free because the money/coins that were put on this mat had electrical currents that would shock you when touching it. Despite the pain, they were still reaching at the money. They believed the money laying there was theirs or felt they needed to have it felt the need because to them they thought why fight for no reward? This symbolizes the economic instability African Americans were facing at such a time. While the white men take their hardships and misfortunes as entertainment. It tells us that nothing came easy to any African American at the time and even if it did, it came with obstacles such as putting the body through pain and suffering that no human being should endure. It tells us they were always one step behind while the rest were ahead.

    At the end of the story Ellison reveals to us that the young man finally got to read his speech to the older white men at the battle. In doing so it showed the intelligence the young man had but wasn’t able to show based on racial inequality. The older white men enjoyed the speech so much that they rewarded him with a leather briefcase and inside of it was a scholarship to the state college for Negroes. Stating, “take this prize and keep it well. Consider it a badge of office. Prize it. Keep developing as you are and some day it will be filled with important papers that will help shape the destiny of your people”. This shows the power the whites had over African Americans at the time. The fact that they controlled the fate of this young man and determined that he’d continue his way to college shows the power of a rich white man. Its showing that there’s no other way to succeed but to please the man above. It puts a limit to what you can and can’t do as a young man because if he was to never read that speech and take a beating there would be no scholarship nor college for him in the future. It gives you a sense that you’re not setting your own standards, you’re living in theirs.

  19. Ti Faotusia

    Enlgish 1A
    Professor Keeble

    One symbol I saw while reading was when the narrator got knocked out during the battle royal. He said that the room turned red. I think that symbolized blood and defeat. Due to his injuries he sustained with the fight, the color red representing blood added to his desperation for wanting the brawl to end. Especially when compared to his train of thought and how he continuously referred back to solely wanting to present his speech. Another symbol I found in the reading was before the battle royal. The narrator explained being blindfolded and how it felt like he was in a “dark room filled with poisonous cottonmouths”. I thought the white men were symbolized as the “poisonous cottonmouths” due to the long history of slaves being forced to pick cotton. Also, the men forcing them to fight represented their form of being “poisonous”.

  20. Bryant Tong

    One thing I would like to highlight, in the text, is amount of imagery the author uses. In the excerpt, the author writes, “We were a small tight group, clustered together, our bare upper bodies touching and shining with anticipatory sweat; while up front the big shots were becoming increasingly excited over something we still could not see”. The description reminded me of trophies whose purpose was not clearly defined. Though the main character does not interpret it this way, the superintendent and those who dressed well may have seen it that way. It was as if the their reason to stand there was to mock them sadly. A question I would like to ask is what is the purpose of making fun of another person?

  21. Emily Barnhart

    I’m not sure where everyone is posting their responses so I’m posting here as well as on blackboard!

    One thing that really stood out in Battle Royal was the line from paragraph 53, on page 278. Ellison says “suddenly I saw a boy lifted in the air, glistening with sweat like a circus seal”. Ellison used his words extremely precisely and his point to this quote was to symbolize that himself and the other men involved in the “fight” were forced to be entertainment for these stuffy, old, white men. In the same way that circus animals are forced to do tricks to entertain an audience. It’s incredibly powerful, and extremely disheartening.
    Another thing that really stood out was the speaker’s dream with his grandfather on page 281, about the last paragraph of the story. He says “I dreamed I was at a circus with him and that he refused to laugh at the clowns no matter what they did.” The clowns symbolize the white men controlling the actions of black men. In his grandfathers last words he says to “live with your head in the lions mouth”. He wanted the speaker to conform to white society. But in the speakers dream his grandfather refused to. It’s said that someone who can control another’s emotions, can control their life. By refusing to allow the clowns to make him laugh, the speakers grandfather was refusing to let the white men control his life anymore.


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