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Ralph Ellison - Symbolism, Equality and Self-Identity

            Ralph Ellison's "Battle Royal" is based on the symbolism of equality and self-identity on African Americans. The story tells of a young man, who is African American, graduated high school, and ready to begin his new life. Proud of all his hard work, the narrator gets chosen to read his speech in front of the leading white townspeople. He gets told to attend and take part in the battle royal, a fight between him and other African American young men. This fight is supposed to entertain the white townsmen who end up drunk and don't care how these young men are being treated. At the same time, the narrator feels uneasy about fighting in the battle royal. In his mind, he remembers his grandfather's words to "keep up the good fight." "Our life is a war, and I have been a traitor all my days" (226). He gets confused and begins to question everything and the world he lives in. In the end, the narrator gets awarded a scholarship from the white townspeople to go to college and remembers what his grandfather meant by his words by people judging him on his race and identity. Ellison gives us a understand of how the narrator grew up from hearing the words of his grandfather on his deathbed, his parent's ignoring what is being said, and for him graduating high school to accomplish bigger things. At the time, the reader begins to raise questions if the story is based on Ellison. Was the story based on his life and struggle he had encountered? Why is there no name of the young man? Why did Ellison choose the title of this story? In the "Emergence of Genius", based on Ellison gives us some background on why he chose to write the story and how he answers it: "Royal Battle is only a short section from a full length novel in which I am attempting to create a character who possesses both the eloquence and the insight into the interconnections between his own personality and the world about him to make a judgement upon our culture" (Gibson 357).

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