In Ralph Ellison's "Battle Royal" the the narrator who is also the protagonist is portrayed as a bright black man struggling to fit in the predominantly white society. He remains unnamed through the whole story thus symbolizing black people and what they had to go through in that time period when racism was normal. The cruel treatment he undergoes to deliver his speech is rather symbolic. It represents the hardships that African Americans had to go through while fighting to be treated equally in the U.S.
As the protagonist prepares to give his speech, he expects to be in a normal positive environment, like is was when he gave speech at his graduation, however, what he faces is something that he couldn't have imagined. Instead of giving the speech, he was issued a pair of boxing gloves and forced to fight his schoolmates, who were there only for entertaining guests (276). He was taught "to overcome 'em with yeses, undermine 'em with grins, agree 'em to death and destruction, let 'em swoller you till they vomit or bust wide open" (275).
He and his schoolmates are then subjected to humiliation and fear caused by the scene of a dancing naked girl (227). In the time period where the story takes place, for a black man simply looking at a whine woman with desire could result in his genitals being mutilated and himself lynched. This shows how the boys were messed with on the emotional level. Unfortunately, this was only the beginning of narrators misfortunes.
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Constant threats and degradation of the black people caused them be in a survival mode and to turn on each other as the narrator's own schoolmates turned against him (280). Since the protagonist was described as bright, and was giving speeches in front of white people, it is likely that he was somewhat better off than other blacks.
The narrator has to undergo humiliation to win a scholarship to achieve his dreams. This represents the African Americans who undergo humiliation in order to get ahead in life. This words show that his grandfather wanted him to find a way to fit in to the white community.
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