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Ellison's Parsnip

Ellison's Parsnip

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Published by blap
My Ralph Ellison - Battle Royal essay.
My Ralph Ellison - Battle Royal essay.

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Published by: blap on Mar 11, 2007
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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05/08/2014

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ELLISON'S PARSNIP
 Though the irony in Ralph Ellison's "Battle Royal" is overt, anadditional enquiry should be made: What is the rationale behind theirony? To understand this, we must look to the allegory of the excerpt.By means of allegory, we can discern the motives of the story's ironies,why the protagonist is deceived, and the mindset of the aggression setagainst him; in doing so, we can also come to understand therepresentations of Ellison's absurd imagery. This paper shall attempt todivulge and uphold the ironic allegory of Ellison's "Battle Royal" asbeing the circumstances of the black intellectual and the obstacles andtribulations that present themselves in the pursuit of knowledge andidentity.Sequentially, we can begin with the protagonist's memory of hisgrandfather's final words as the symbolization of two aspects: theprotagonist as black intellectual with feelings of self-hatred and of injustice, and his fear of never expressing those feelings. His meek,conforming grandfather had seen his own life of smiles and yeses as a"treachery". This is the inevitable realization of the black intellectual:that in order to further himself, he has to be subservient in the face of a repressive society, but then, can he really deem that as furtheringhimself, or would he be lowering himself?—Yet, if he refuses humility,his intellectual resources become limited and his identity as an
 James BarelaEssay 1 - Eng 201MW 7:20 -Benjamin
 
academician is compromised. This 'Catch-22' is given to the reader inthe mainmast of the story's irony: the subject of the protagonist'svaledictorian speech: "...humility was the secret, indeed, the veryessence of progress." His inner conflict is told right after, inparentheses: "(Not that I believed this—how could I, remembering mygrandfather? —I only believed that it worked.)" The "gathering of the town's leading white citizens" obviouslysignifies 1930s white-empowered culture. This faculty is the only onethat can grant the black intellectual the higher knowledge they seek,and according to the allegory, white-empowered culture does noteasily grant such a privilege to its repressed peoples. The protagonist's schoolmates who participate in the battle royalalso have two simultaneous representations: black society at large,and his fellow black intellectuals, of which there is finite room for intheir repressive culture. This is the battle royal, all v all. On one hand,they are the everyday blacks, people which he feels himself superiorto, a people he dislikes and who do not like him. This is likely becausethey see him as a sellout, are jealous of his intellectual successes, ordisapprove because they see his intellect as a desire to separatehimself from his own culture. Demeaned as it is, the situation of blacksin America is still embraced as the black identity, evident by hisparents' horrified reaction to his grandfather's final proclamation. Onthe other hand, the pugilists are also the other black intellectuals
 James BarelaEssay 1 - Eng 201MW 7:20 -Benjamin
 
 jockeying for position in senior levels of society, or, in a simpler form,entrance to a 1930s college for black students. This is apparent in thepassage: "...we had words over the fact that I, by taking part in thefight, had knocked one of their friends out of a night's work." Both of these representations are personalized in a particularly hateful andcompetitive combatant named Tatlock, who also represents the guilt of the black intellectual, and eventually knocks the protagonist senseless,defeating him.Before the battle, the participants are taunted with a white girlwho represents what white-empowered culture wants the blackintellectual to set as their real goal. The All-American girl, with OldGlory tattooed just above her crotch, her blonde hair and big breasts,represents the white American dream; this is meant to distract theblack intellectual. The idea is to convince the black brawlers that whatthey want, is what whites want, and that their final goal for social andacademic progress is neither intellect nor insight, but only to becomemore as whites. They encourage them to this end while simultaneouslythreatening them against it, flustering the fighters, for white-empowered culture simply wants them to chase after their dream of whiteness, not actually win it. This is the ironic meaning behind thewhite blindfolds they wear during the fight—blinded from each other bysupposed want of whiteness, for only when blinded would fellowmembers of an oppressed race counter one another.
 James BarelaEssay 1 - Eng 201MW 7:20 -Benjamin

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