“Battle Royal” by Ralph Ellison is the story about young African-American man who has to prove himself in White dominant society 1920s. Battle royal is one of the main symbols that show hardship the narrator had to go through to deliver his speech and that white people are in control. His fight goes beyond the character and represents the struggles of all African-American people in pursuit of equal treatment. Battle royal shows control White people have over African-Americans. Narrator came to give a speech but first he was ordered to participate in the fight with his fellow classmates.
Even though the narrator has some “misgivings over the battle royal” (279), he doesn’t protest. “There was nothing to do but what we were told” (280). Blacks are free people by law, still they continue to receive enslavementary treatment. White men are in control of everything African-Americans desire: equality, money, jobs. “Everybody fought everybody else. No group fought together for long”(281). The same way African-Americans didn’t cooperate with each other to fight against White power.
They were competing against each other, seeking Whites loyalty.
They hoped that the best servers would get excess to money and status. Blindfold added confusion and anxiety to the fight. “I could no longer control my emotions. I had no dignity. I stumbled about like a baby or a drunken man” (281). Boys can’t predict from what side they will get hit. They can’t coordinate their actions because they don’t have the knowledge of their surroundings.
African-Americans were seeking equality but many of them were blindfolded also: they didn’t know who to fight or how. During the fight, narrators blindfold becomes loose.
He gains the knowledge of the surroundings and can better control his actions. It gives him advantage to other boys. The same happens when he receives the scholarship. Education was available mainly to white people. It puts narrator one step closer to their level. It gives him hope that one day he can be equal. Battle Royal shows control white people had over Black people and the struggles of African-Americans in their pursuit of equality. Scholarship gives the narrator, who is representative of African-American society, hope that one day he can become equal to white man.