Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Ralph Ellision - "Battle Royal"

The first paragraph of this story intensely highlights the theme of alienation:
"I was looking for myself and asking questions which I, and only I, could answer...But first I had to discover that I am an invisible man!" (Ellison 9)
The main character gives a speech "at a gathering of the town's leading white citizens" (10).  There is a clear line drawn between him and the recipients of the speech:
"I spoke automatically and with such fervor that I did not realize that the men were still talking and laughing until my dry mouth, filling up with blood from the cut, almost strangled me." (14)
One of the goals of the white men is to turn the young black men on each other, destroying any sense of community or comrodery:
 "Everyone fought hysterically.  It was complete anarchy.  Everybody fought everybody else.  No group fought together for long." (12)
The white woman - an exotic dancer - also exemplifies the theme of alienation.  She is alone even among her own race as she is made to perform and humiliate herself, just as the young black men are made to do:
"A sea of faces, some hostile, some amused, ringed around us, and in the center, facing us, stood a magnificent blonde - stark naked.  There was dead silence...As the dancer flung herself about with a detached expression on her face, the men began reaching out to touch her." (10-11)

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