Ralph Ellison Battle Royal Analysis

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In “Battle Royal” by Ralph Ellison, the narrator is an African American young man growing up and trying to find his place in a time when social equality was only dreamt about. When his grandfather was on his deathbed he advised his family to “overcome ‘em with yeses and undermine ‘em with grins” (Hawthorne 553) and from then on, the narrators life is framed by his grandfather’s last words. Although it takes the narrators whole childhood and the biggest test of his life to figure out what this means, his grandfather’s advice did indeed pave the way for his success growing up in a post-civil war, racist society. With his grandfather’s words still stagnant in the back of his mind, the narrator makes a speech at his graduation regarding humility being the key to succeeding in life. His words, or rather his grandfather’s words, are praised and he is invited to speak…show more content…
This keeps him going, putting his mental and physical strength to the test, therefore making this the initiation phase. Covered with sweat and blood the narrator does not give up hope, for he cannot if he wishes to win the respect of the white men with his speech. Desperately fighting, the narrator says, “I wanted to deliver my speech more than anything else in the world, because I felt that only these men could judge truly my ability” (Hawthorne 558). The narrator’s strength is tested yet again when the boys are set up to fight for their share of coins on an electrically charged rug. Throughout the entire initiation phase it is the hope of delivering his speech that pushes him to fight through the embarrassment and pain. The narrator is pushed onto the rug by one of the white men and even then he only has his speech in mind: “…I was seared and heated to the point of explosion. It’ll all be over in a flash, I thought as I rolled clear. It’ll all be over in a flash” (Hawthorne

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