Battle royal symbolism

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorHigh School, 11th grade February 2008

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In the story "Battle Royal" by Ralph Ellison, he uses a white, naked, exotic dancer as a big symbol in the story. Tattooed on the girl that the narrator is directing his attention to is an American Flag. The symbol of the American flag on the naked blonde girl relates to the many themes of the story such as the struggle for equality. To understand how the American flag plays its role in the story you have to look at what it represents. First, the public symbol meanings of the American flag being the American dream, freedom, independence, and equality. To the main character, the narrator, those meanings are important to him. In the story the exotic dancer was what the American flag represented.

It is obvious that the Narrator is attracted to the exotic dancer. "[He wanted] to caress her and destroy her, love her and murder her."

The narrator wants what the exotic dancer represents. The Narrator wants to be equal among everybody else, but the white men won't let him. The white men in the room force the boys to look at the dancer, while others threaten them when they do. It is clear that at the time that this story was written, black men could never show any kind of attraction towards white women. This was an unwritten, but inexcusable law of society with harsh consequences. How that relates to the story is that the group of black boys are not suppose to be attracted to the exotic dancer as they are not suppose to be attracted to the idea of being equal with white people. This is why some of the boys try to hide the fact that they are attracted. Some of them cried, one of them fainted, and another tried to...