Battle Royal Critical Essay

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Title: Critical Essay on "The Invisible Man; or, Battle Royal" Author(s):Cynthia A. Bily Source:Short Stories for Students. Ed. Jennifer Smith. Vol. 11. Detroit: Gale Group, 2001. From Literature Resource Center. Bookmark:Bookmark this Document Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale, Group, COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale Few rooms in literature are as vividly drawn as the fancy hotel ballroom in Ralph Ellison's "Battle Royal." Full of smoke, whiskey fumes, the red faces of howling drunken men watching a white woman dancing and a group of black boys fighting, the room calls to mind a chaotic vision of hell by Hieronymus Bosch. Ralph Ellison was fascinated by the chaos of the world, and saw confronting and depicting it as a writer's responsibility. In "That Same Pain, That Same Pleasure: An Interview," he explain, "I think that the mixture of the marvelous and the terrible is a basic condition of…show more content…
His description of the "magnificent blonde" strips her of all humanity, and reduces her to an object, a collection of body parts: "The hair was yellow like that of a circus kewpie doll, the face heavily powdered and rouged, as though to form an abstract mask, the eyes hollow and smeared a cool blue, the color of a baboon's butt." In watching her and dehumanizing her, the narrator is no different from the white men who are doing the same thing, and his response to her echoes the hatred the men feel for him: "I felt a desire to spit upon her as my eyes brushed slowly over her body." The atmosphere of chaos, of paradox, engulfs the narrator as he watches the dancer, and his feelings are contradictory and overwhelming: "I wanted at one and the same time to run from the room, to sink through the floor, or go to her and cover her from my eyes and the eyes of the others with my body; to feel the soft thighs, to caress her and destroy her, to love her and murder

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