Posted in Short Stories

Ralph Ellison: Battle Royal

Deal Me In 2020 – Week 4

It goes a long way back, some twenty years. All my life I had been looking for something and everywhere I turned someone tried to tell me what it was. I accepted their answers too, though they were often in contradiction and even self-contradictory. I was naive.

Ralph Ellison’s short story “Battle Royal” became the first chapter in his most memorable work, the novel Invisible Man according to the introduction to the story by Joyce Carol Oates as editor of the anthology The Oxford Book of American Short Stories. Oates also goes on to say that it can still stand on its own. I read it when I selected the Four of Spades for Week 4 of my Deal Me In 2020 short story project. Check out my Deal Me In 2020 list here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

Ellison uses the social contradictions of the story’s setting to create a more nuanced struggle in the mind of the narrator.

The narrator is a young, intelligent and educated African-American man who is invited to give his graduation speech to a group of distinguished white males. The white males, however, grossly and treacherously mock the African-American men invited to the meeting including the narrator prior to the delivery of the speech.

The narrator still goes ahead with his speech while attempting to reconcile the horrors of this meeting with his speech’s call for social responsibility. The speech seems very naive, as the narrator states at the beginning of the story. But I had to ask the question: is he naive or is he just hopeful? And is there a difference?

Have you read anything by Ralph Ellison? What are your thoughts on his work?


2 thoughts on “Ralph Ellison: Battle Royal

  1. Love that quote you chose. Interesting, I read “Invisible Man” years ago and sadly don’t remember much of anything at all, especially this particular section that is now anthologized as a short-story. I should change that, thanks.

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