Symbolism In Battle Royal, By Ralph Ellison

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Ralph Ellison uses his short story, Battle Royal to depict the racism that he had to endure as a boy growing up in Oklahoma and the way he was taught to deal with it by his grandfather, who was born a slave and endured Emancipation. The title Battle Royal, refers to how African American people are participating in a constant battle for fair treatment, equality, and their rights as human beings. Ellison uses many different symbols throughout the story to represent the psychological effect that whites had on African Americans. While at a beautifully described hotel right before the battle, a nude white woman is dancing around the room and all of the black men look at her filled with shame and reluctance (Smith 19) because they realize how extremely …show more content…
Right before the battle begins, the narrator feels as though he has suddenly found himself “in a dark room filled with poisonous cottonmouth.” This is the way that the whites make life for African American people. Their goal is to try to make black people feel like they have no one to depend on, no one to trust. Usually a person that can’t be trusted is referred to as a “snake”, and a cottonmouth is a type of snake. Also, every black person that was forced to get in the ring had a white blindfold placed over their faces very tightly, which symbolizes how the whites wanted all of the black people to fight each other instead of being unified and standing up for their rights against the white people. The whites wanted the blacks to be “blind” to the fact that united they will stand, and divided they will …show more content…
The fact that the narrator’s grandfather tells him that “their life is a war” shows how life as a black person was a constant fight for equality. His grandfather suggests to his son that the best way to battle in the war is to always use humility, and to kill the enemy with kindness. The young black men are forced into a ring to fight very gruesomely amongst each other which shows how blacks were expected to be a divided people, always turning against each other instead of standing up and fighting for what they believed in. The metaphors and symbolism that Ralph Ellison uses in his short story, Battle Royal paints an outstanding portrait of what it was like being an African American living in a time where blacks were hated and seen as

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