Ralph Ellison Battle Royal Analysis

823 Words 4 Pages
A Refugee’s Plight in the Racial Hierarchy of the 1920s: A Postcolonial Criticism on Ralph Ellison’s “Battle Royal” Throughout history, humans have been torn between the demands of conflicting cultures, ethnicities, and races. Generally, this internal and subsequent external plight results in a binary outcome: either being admitted to the dominant and privileged faction or being expelled to the marginalized and scorned sector. Consequently, this dichotomy between groups allows for the dominant structures to become the standard and those without power are deemed inferior. Furthermore, this unfair system causes oppression, identity crises, alienation, and deep conflicts, all of which are present in Ralph Ellison’s “Battle Royal”. The unnamed …show more content…
Ellison explicitly states when talking about the other black men, “I felt superior to them in my way, and I didn’t like the manner in which we were all crowded together into the servants’ elevator. Nor did they like my being there” (Ellison 1496). In essence, this statement depicts how alienated Ellison actually is; he is not even ignorant to the fact that he is loathed by his own color. However, this animosity can be attributed not to Ellison’s deliberate actions, but to his assimilation and need to gratify the white culture. Ellison does not intentionally mean to alienate himself from the black culture, instead, the animosity is a product of Ellison’s infatuation with the white culture. Nevertheless, Ellison can never achieve full membership to this superior caste; therefore, he is unknowingly a refugee, not belonging to either system. As a result of Ellison’s alienation, he is not only truly unaffiliated with neither group, but also he causes the stereotype of an Uncle Tom to become relevant. Similar to his grandfather, Ellison becomes a “yes man” to the domineering whites, undermining his own culture and …show more content…
Simply forcing Ellison to participate in the fight is reason enough to indicate he is not a member of the superior class. Then to be labeled “nigger”, “Sambo”, and “coon” emphasize Ellison’s disassociation (Ellison 1498). After Ellison is bloodied up, he finally gets to give his speech, yet giving it to a rambunctious crowd who belittles his diction and guffaws at his statements reveal Ellison is a refugee in this racial hierarchy. At first glance, one may think Ellison’s award of a scholarship to the state college for Negroes is proof of his social ascension, but in reality, this is the domineering yet again boldly placing limitations on a black man and emphasizing their dominance. Likewise, the award further deepens the broken relationship Ellison has with his own color since they look at the award as him getting a handout from the white people. In closing, Ellison does not have a home in either culture due to the vast dichotomy created by the white culture’s ability to alienate, thus augmenting the racial hierarchy. Ralph Ellison’s “Battle Royal” illustrates a black man’s internal and external struggle created by the racial hierarchy. Ellison is consequently a refugee, initially stuck between the aspiration of joining the superior white culture and pretentiously avoiding the inferior black culture. Nevertheless, Ellison is made aware of this racial order through

Related Documents

Related Topics