Sample American Literature Essay: The Use of Imagery in “Battle Royal” By Ralph Ellison

The ideal protagonist that Ralph Ellison describes in the short story ‘Battle Royal’ is a young African American lost in his world during the early twentieth century. The young man has no place in the society and undergoes immense trouble in discovering himself in a real world. This argumentative paper seeks to illustrate the use of imagery in Ellison’s short story. To start with, the title to the short story is a clear illustration of imagery. Battle royal: a distinctive topic depicting a situation of war, conspiracy and misunderstanding. The situation involves the cultural issues affecting the African Americans during their endeavors in history.

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The story begins by describing a devoted young man to education. He is described as an excellent speaker, one with the dream of becoming an icon to his society. This phenomenon encourages the white men clubs to invite him for a piece of his performance. He reads out his speech, emphasizing on humility as a determinant aspect in encouraging progress within the society. Imagery sets in when he finds frustration on being requested to attend on other issues of concern to the club. A conflict of ideas develops when he is put in a situation of boxing in a temporary ring. The reality of being in boxing gloves, in a temporary stage with the white oriented audience waiting for his reaction contradicts his message in the speech. The important men drink and smoke cigars as a white lady dances in front of the fighters. The character finds himself in a dilemma, his ideologies are completely put into trial and all he can do is a face the reality of the issue. His knees knock, skin turns goose flesh and teeth chatter.
A complete turn of events evolves in the relationship between the African Americans and the whites. Imagery on the battle behind societal perspectives of that time is illustrated a situation where the young fighters are put into test with the woman. It is taboo to look at the woman yet they are put in a situation whereby they have to look at her. It is a dilemma, a two way sword for the fighters for they cannot understand how they are supposed to behave. They have no place in the society based on this situation. Apparently, during the post civil war culture did not advocate for a relationship between the white women and the black males. For instance, the 1931 case on the persecution of the nine blacks at Scottsboro in Alabama depicts the reality of the relationship puzzle. Nine black men were arrested, convicted and sentenced for interrelating with white women.
Imagery is a vivid descriptive language; from the topic and the sequence of the story, an image of conflict is evident. The title, battle royal refers to a situation of conflict. The conflict goes on to grow through the relationship between the whites and the African Americans of that time. An African American character goes on to depict a situation of conflict where his academic notions and perceptions end up in a contradicting situation at a club. From the flow of events, the image demonstrated is clearly one of interlocking conflicts that result into situations of dilemma. From my perspective, I think that Ralph Ellison makes use of imagery in demonstrating complex situations in real life that appear to have no solution whatsoever.
Ellison, R. W. (2011). Battle Royal. A Journal of Theory and Practice Spring .