Symbolism in Ralph Ellison’s Battle Royal Short Story

The battle that takes place in Ralph Ellison’s Battle Royal, is an experience that symbolizes many struggles for the black Americans in the terms of equality among the whites.

The battle symbolizes the real life experience of how a young black man in that time had to overcome harsh words, struggle to be equal, and the right to have a place in society. This can be seen through the narrator’s point when the boys are blind folded and told to fight. This represents the fight the black Americans were facing everyday by being blindly led forward to fight for their rights.The representation of this battle can be defined though the different ways Ellison uses symbolization.

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The boys having to fight in front of high society white men is one that tells of the real life struggle that was taking place not only then but for years to come. The struggle represents how the white men have all the power and use their force to be cruel and brutal in their ways by denying the black Americans rights, accepting them as equals, and by enjoying keeping black Americans down. According to the narrator he states, “Blindfolded, I could no longer control my motions.I had no dignity.

I stumbled about like a baby or a drunken man,” this can be seen as a way for the black Americans to be degraded and be ranked as animals in the white society’s eyes (Ellison, p. 247). This also can represent the lack of focus the black boys will have on winning not only in the ring but in life. The experiences the narrator describes of the battle are harsh reality for some.

The crude yelling and the sounds of a struggle taking place around the room as the battle begins can be representation of the fight for the civil rights movement.The way the battle unfolds tells of how the black Americans had to stand and fight to be seen as equal among the whites and would not back down. The way the boys had to be blind folded is a great insight into how not knowing what was to come but the journey to go forward into the darkness. The narrator describes the details just as it was in a black American’s everyday life knowing that no matter the outcome the fight will pay off in time.

The hope of one day blacks won’t always have to live in fear of the violence or be humiliated by the whites for not being of quality. The effect of the battle helps the narrator to want to overcome all the obstacles not just there but in the future. The idea of change is seen through the struggle of the narrator during the battle by the fighting, humiliation, and state of confusion that are brought not only on him but all black Americans of his time. The want to survive the battle is the representation of wanting to find a way to find a change for a society as a whole.

The way the narrator states, “The harder we fought the more threatening the men became.And yet I begun to worry about my speech again” is an expression on how the battle was going on but he had a mission to do (Ellison, p. 248). He wanted the high society white men to hear his speech.

This can be seen as a representation of one man wanting to be heard, the wanting to change how society looked upon his people, and to stop all the humiliation that was forced on them. This attitude is a great motivator to lead to a change, a better tomorrow.

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Symbolism in Ralph Ellison’s Battle Royal Short Story. (2017, May 17). Retrieved from