Ralph Ellison's short story, 'Battle Royal', is symbolic in many different ways. In one way it is symbolic of the African Americans' struggle for equality throughout our nation's history. The various hardships that the narrator must endure, in his quest to deliver his speech, are representative of the many hardships that the blacks went through in their fight for equality. The narrator in Ellison's short story suffers much. He is considered to be one of the brighter youths in his black community. The young man is given the opportunity to give a speech to some of the more prestigious white individuals. The harsh treatment that he is dealt in order to perform his task is quite symbolic.
The white men yell at the boys for looking and not looking at the woman. It is as if they are showing them all of the good things being white can bring, and then saying that they aren't good enough for it since they were black. Next the boys must compete in the battle royal. Blindly the boys savagely beat one another. This is symbolic of the African Americans' fight for equality. It represents the struggle they endured, to be accepted as equals with our society's white population, upon the abolition of slavery. Blindly, our nation's black population fought, not always knowing what for, just as the boys in this story fought. The segregation of schools, restaurants, and other public facilities were issues that were fiercely fought over. These battles are directly represented by the barbarous fighting by 10 boys in a ring, being witnessed by whites in high social standing.
Battle Royal Essays - Symbolism in Battle Royal, by Ralph Ellison