“Battle Royal” by Ralph Ellison at Featured Artists: How Are Bodies Objectified in This Story?
However this did not stop the men from the humiliating circumstances of grabbing the coins.
This is certainly appropriate to the Battle Royal which caters for the most basic impulses human beings can have: lust (the naked white woman); greed (the frantic scrambling for cash by the African Americans); and violence (the battle itself). Another pattern if imagery is drawn from the world of warfare and international confrontation: in a way it is the basis of the story given the title ‘Battle Royal,’ but it is also apparent in the narrator’s thoughts about his grandfather’s death bed words: “traitor, “spy” and “treachery” (17) suggest the world of international espionage. As the story progresses we start to have a sense that the narrator’s younger self mis-interpreted hos grandfather’s words. He thinks he is betraying the dominant white culture which is responsible in the South for segregation and for the appallingly violent treatment of the African Americans in the Battle Royal, but by the end of the story the reader can see that his grandfather meant that to co-operate with racist white people was an act of betrayal of his own people. The narrator’s younger self is hard-working and complies with the segregationist society he lives in – he plays by the rules of white southern society and is, therefore, a “traitor” to his own race.
Ellison, Ralph. ‘Battle Royal’ (1947’. Pages 17 – 32 in Ellison, Ralph. The Invisible Man. (1952). London: Penguin.