Battle Royal By Ellison

"Battle Royal," by Ralph Ellison was a very difficult piece of literature
for me to understand. As a little background information, Ellison was very much
into music (228). He was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on March 1, 1914 (221).

Different themes are presented throughout this short story, which reflect
different views that Ellison had at the time that he wrote this essay. One boy
is invited to speak at local men’s club where he will deliver his graduation
speech. As I go on, I will discuss the nature of the short story and how it
affected me. The narrator’s view of this entire situation at the men’s club
is kind of humiliating which will later set the stage for events that will
happen in his future. Black people are viewed different in this time period and
the narrator does not understand near the end of the story. The narrator looks
up to his grandfather. He told the narrator’s father to keep up the fight. The
father then tells the narrator what the grandfather told him. This was just
being passed down through the different generations. This to me shows the loving
relationship that the grandson and the grandfather share. Near the end of the
story however, his grandfather’s presence scares him to death. The
grandfather’s advice was a little too much for the narrator to handle. "Live
with your head in the lion’s mouth...overcome them with yeses...let ‘em
swoller you till they vomit." This scares the boy. These last words that his
grandfather tells him makes him feel like that there is a curse hovering over
him. The family being black had a harder time growing up than the more wealthy
white folks did. He wrote a graduation speech that totally went against his
grandfather’s words that he gave the narrator. The town’s "leading white
people" loved the speech and asked him to deliver it at a local hotel in the
ballroom. This starts a "revolution" in the narrator’s life. The people at
the hotel make the narrator feel very uncomfortable. This group of "town’s
officials" turned out to be the local men’s club. They were smoking and
drinking, paying no attention to what the guests have to say. The leaders of the
club are more interested in the entertainment. At that time, they could have
cared less what the narrator had to say. They had a woman to come out and"entertain" them. I feel that this is ironic because this showed how the
male portion of the society reacted to certain forms of entertainment. While
their wives were probably at home tending the children, these men at this club
were killing all the dignity and respect that the narrator had at that time.

Generally around the 1950s men would sit around old barbershops and tell their"big tales" about how they caught the biggest one yet. Women had their
bridge club and also their garden club that kept them busy throughout the day.

This was a way for many men to relax after a hard day at work. According to Mack

Warren, a local barber in my hometown, he states that "tellin’ tales was
more than just a hobby for many men back in the 50’s, it was a way for them to
get away from the stresses of everyday life." The pride in them (the people of
that era) helped determine the way of the country today. It helped determine the
way their children and grandchildren live today. The narrator being black had a
hard time realizing what the people there were doing. He was being mocked
without him even knowing it. Being black in this time period was very difficult
for the narrator because he wasn’t looked upon as much as the white people his
same age. This was not the case for some other men. Of course some had to be
perverse in some way or fashion. They got their pleasure from scenes such as the
woman dancer in "Battle Royal." The men at the "smoker" enjoy this form
of entertainment with their drinks and cigars. The narrator has to sit through
all of this. I think that this scene humiliates the author. He is being
subjected to things beyond his control and things he had no choice to see. This
was a cheap and humiliating form of entertainment. The dancing woman was not the
only form of entertainment that night. All the "guests" invited to this
event had to be used as a form of entertainment also. Each of them were"stripped" of