Symbolism in "Battle Royal"

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Gloria Pierce Robin Miltimore English 112 02 February 2013 Symbolism in “Battle Royal” “Battle Royal” provides a vivid picture of the intense fight black Americans have battled in a country of predominately white men. Ellison uses several symbols, such as a stripper, a white blindfold, and the battle royal itself, to illustrate the fight for equality that black Americans faced. The stripper is symbolic of the freedom the narrator and the black race yearn for, but have not yet achieved. In the story the white men forced the young black men to look at the stripper; however, they were not allowed to touch her. The narrator tells of his desire and “to feel the soft thighs, to caress her and destroy her, to love her and murder her, to hide from her, and yet to stroke where below the small American flag tattooed upon her belly her thighs formed a capital V” (506). Symbolic to the black race is the desire for freedom of equality, which they desperately want to grasp, but again are told they can’t by white men. The narrator recounts the emotions he felt upon seeing the stripper as, “I felt a wave of irrational guilt and fear” as though desiring this woman were wrong, just like the desire for freedom of equality was wrong (506). Another symbolic element Ellison utilizes through the story is the white blindfold, which demonstrates the narrator’s blindness to the intentions of the white men. “…I was told that since I was to be there anyways I might as well take part in the battle royal to be fought by some of my schoolmates as part of the entertainment”(505). Here we see the narrator believes a fight among his fellow black classmates in front of a group of white men is simply entertainment (505). Once blindfolded the narrator says, “but now I felt a sudden fit of blind terror” (507) and “Blindfolded, I could no longer control my emotions. I had no dignity” meaning he

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