Ralph Ellison - Battle Royal Thematic Essay

Words: 1712
Pages: 7

Chris Reinert
English 102
Mr. Jakubowski

“Battle Royal”

Racism was a harsh reality for African Americans after the American slave era and is a prominent theme in the short story “Battle Royal”. This story highlights how racism is not only a powerful tool used to keep people down but can also promote savagery. The author, Ralph Ellison, uses vivid imagery to depict the acts of savagery shown by both the slaves and the white crowd. This short story takes place in the post-slavery south during segregation. The story begins with the narrator remembering his grandfather on his deathbed. His grandfather told the narrator’s father, “Our life is a war and I have been a traitor all my born days.” ( ) By saying
…show more content…
Although they are being laughed at they do not seem to care and continue with the barbaric spectacle. They have accepted the way things are in this aristocratic southern society. The battle royal pits the boys against each other and keeps them from uniting for a greater purpose. This is shown especially when the narrator fights the last fighter. The narrator says to him, “Fake like I knocked you out, you can have the prize.” but the other fighter replies, “I'll break your behind.” The narrator says, “For them?” and the fighter replies, “For me sonafabitch!”( ) This dialogue shows the fighter’s misplaced anger due to his selfish desire for the grand prize. He is used to the brutality and humiliation of these fights and has become a monster for it. He and the other boys are the victims in this story but because they face constant humiliation and are treated so cruelly, they learn to act cruel and violent as well. Although the fighters can be considered savage, most of the instances of savagery are committed by the white crowd in this story. They are the ones who organize this heinous event. When the narrator goes into the smoker he says, “I was shocked to see some of the most important men of the town quite tipsy.” ( ) This indicates that the men in the crowd had been consuming alcohol and noticeably intoxicated. When a naked woman performs a dance for the crowd