Am. Lit. 214
Discrimination and Ignorance in the “Battle Royal”
The government made it hard for African Americans to lead normal lives in the south, after slavery was abolished until the mid nineteen sixties. This was because there was extreme discrimination and racism towards African Americans by the whites, and the government did not do anything to stop this. There were many discriminatory laws in place called the Jim Crow Laws, which basically made it legal for whites to treat blacks with cruelty. In the short story “Battle Royal” by Ralph Ellison, there are many examples of the cruelties done to blacks by whites. Throughout the story, the white men hurt the ...view middle of the document...
The protagonist and the other black boys are sick with confusion. They do not know what to do. The white men are forcing them to look at the woman, but they know that the laws say they could get into deep trouble if they do. Yet these black boys are also teenagers, and most teenage boys would like to look at a pretty woman, so they are deeply conflicted with their thoughts and emotions. The protagonist saw “one boy faint”, and “another boy began to plead to go home” (Ellison 2307). The white men are torturing these poor boys, and they seem to find it funny. The white men were not enjoying the stripper for entertainment; they were enjoying the distraught reactions of the black boys. They thought it would be funny to put them in that position and see their reactions. This is a terrible thing for the white men to do, but the protagonist is not even mad. The only thing he cared about was giving his speech. He felt that these things that were being done to him were just obstacles to hurdle in order to give his speech to the white men.
The white men also tortured the protagonist and his group physically, by forcing them to fight against one another, and by throwing fake coins on an electrified rug. The protagonist and the other boys were blindfolded with white cloth before they were to fight. The whiteness of the blindfolds is a symbol for “the conflict between black manhood and white power in American society” (Blake 123). The blindfolds make the black boys unable to see, and at the mercy of the white men. They have to do what they are told because they know that they could get into trouble otherwise. The protagonist says that “the harder we fought the more threatening the men became” (Ellison 2309). The white men did not care how badly the black boys got hurt, all they wanted was control and entertainment. If they got the black boys to fight each other and hurt each other, it would make the white men stronger against the blacks. After many of the boys are bleeding, including the protagonist, the white men trick the boys into doing more harm to themselves. A rug was “covered with coins of all dimensions and a few crumpled bills” (Ellison 2311). The boys thought that they were going to get paid with whatever they got, but really the “rug was electrified” and they ended up getting electrocuted for a few gold coins (Ellison 2311). The worse part of the whole situation was that “the gold pieces everyone had scrambled for were brass pocket tokens advertising a certain make of automobile” (Ellison 2314). This is terrible. The white men tortured these poor boys by making them fight against each other, and then when they say they are going to get paid, they have to get electrocuted for money that is not even real. This is terrible for any human to do to anyone else, but for these white men to do what they did to a bunch of boys is despicable. These boys were trapped. They were trapped by the laws of the time, by white men who were older and of the...