Battle Royal In Ralph Ellison's essay "Battle Royal" he describes a Negro boy, timid and compliant, comes to a white smoker in a Southern town: he is to be awarded a scholarship. Together with several other Negroes he is rushed to the front of the ballroom, where a sumptuous blonde tantalized and frightens them by dancing in the nude. Blindfolded, the Negro boys stage a "battle royal, " a free-for-all in which they pummel each other to the drunken shouts of the whites. "Practical jokes," humiliations, terrors-and then the boy delivers a prepared speech of gratitude to his white benefactors.
Any person with values and morals would be appalled and ashamed by that the way the white men behaved. The nightmare begins after the narrator makes a speech before his class. The narrator is highly praised for this speech and is asked to speak again to some of the important white citizens of his town. After the young Negro arrived at the hotel he is put in boxing shorts and rushed to the front of the ballroom. Where all these important men were sitting, laughing, smoking, and drinking whiskey.
While being lined up with the other young Negro boys he noticed a nude white, blonde haired female and was overcome by her. The main goal of the sumptuous nude blonde dancing was to embarrass and humiliate the young Negroes. The excitement and natural feeling of arousal was the primary goal of the influential white men. These men wanted to see Negroes lust after a beautiful white woman and to let them know that in no way will a Negro ever be allowed to have a white woman. At least that is what they thought. In my opinion the important white men were nothing more than pigs.
They enjoyed watching a woman degrade herself by dancing around these young men and taunting them to the point of arousal. These men must be pretty damn desperate for entertainment to summit young high school graduates to such humiliation for their amusement. I am not only appalled by what these men did but the fact that they were white. After being humiliated and displayed he is now being told to enter he boxing ring for the "battle royal." In this event, the narrator and several of his classmates must fight blindfolded until only one person remains standing. While the drunken crowd of respected bankers, lawyers, judges, doctors, and even a pastor finds this to be great entertainment, to the participants it is quite humiliating and degrading. Eventually the narrator and one other man are left alone in the ring.
The narrator offers to let the other man win, but the request is refused. Therefore, the two continue to fight until the narrator eventually loses. The fact that grown, respected man can watch and be entertained by this barbaric behavior. I believe that these young men were placed on display for these influential white men. These young men were used to amuse them for one night. It is as if these influential white men were watching two chickens go at it or two dogs fighting.
Those young men may have been black but they were still men, human. How can we as a society accept or condom this type of behavior? Who draws the line? I suppose at that time these influential men did and that is why to this day we as a society are fighting to regress from our past and to remember as President Lincoln stated "Men are created equal... ." Finally, the narrator to asked to give his speech to these drunken white men. His speech focuses on the idea of humility and social responsibility yet he presents it the moment he is most humiliated and defeated. He is excited and nervous. I would think that after all that he has been put through during the night he would have some clue as to what was going to happen during his speech but he didn't; he eager and proud to give his speech.
While giving his speech the drunken white men were talking and laughing. They had no intention to listen to this young mans speech. Although the young Negro knew that they were not paying him any attention and dismissing everything that he was saying he continued with his speech. I believe that this young man had a lot of nerve and was very courageous to stand in front these men that humiliated, tortured and laughed at him and give a speech that meant so much to him.
He did not let these men break his spirit he prevailed. If this were me, I would have broken down on the way to the front of the ballroom. This young Negro was / is a very strong man. The young protagonist is presented with a leather briefcase that contained a college scholarship, leading him to believe that education will help him overcome the racial problems he faces. The narrator struggles in the ring parallel his struggles in daily life. He must learn how to remove his blindfold so he can clearly see what is taking place around him and in his own life.
Without the blindfold, he will have the ability to discover his own identity. Throughout this evening he learns more about himself and the ways to overcome his past. He is no longer a timid, compliant young man, he is now a man with honor and courage. He now knows that he does have the strength to fight his past and to overcome it to be a better black man.
Unfortunately, it took something as humiliating and brutal as the "battle royal.".