Naked Blonde Essay Samples
Ralph Ellison’s short story Battle Royal is a powerful piece of work delivering the harsh story of racism that has been, and in some ways, continues to be a downside for the people living for the American Dream. The story is set in the 1950’s about a young black man who is haunted by a message that was delivered by his dying grandfather. "Son, after I'm gone I want you to keep up the good fight. I never told you, but our life is a war and I have been a traitor all my born days, a spy in the enemy's country ever since I give up my gun back in the Reconstruction. Live with your head in the lion's mouth. I want you to overcome 'em with yeses, undermine 'em with grins, agree 'em to death and destruction, let 'em swoller you till they vomit or bust wide open" (Ellison, 1952). The family was very upset by the grandfather’s parting words and urged everyone to just forget about it, but the protagonist (the young man) was unable to let it go. The importance of this message becomes evident to the reader as the story unfolds and the grandfather’s words are take on a new meaning as the story continues.
Ellison’s story is a poignant piece filled with symbolism about racism and the American Dream. A naked blonde is used by Ellison as a powerful symbolic piece for the Battle Royal, representing many aspects associated with racism and the American Dream. The naked blonde is used as a bold statement of the inhumanity by the prominent white men of the time, used for their petty entertainment. Acknowledgement of the woman as a human being with feelings is overlooked as she is placed on displayed for kicks just like the men were when they were forced to fight one another blind-folded. The derogatory position of the woman is representative to the position that was held by African Americans in a large part of American history.
The protagonist of the story is a young black man who has been invited by his school to give a speech at “a gathering of the town’s leading white citizens” (Ellison, 1952). An invitation to this event was a big honor among those in the community, and he was invited because of a phenomenal speech he gave at his high school graduation. The unfortunate disgrace that was evidence of the degradation of his invitation to give the speech was the addition of the ‘battle royal’ he was expected to participate in. The fight was only entertainment for the white men, just like the naked blonde woman was. Battle royal was a fight that was among young black men who were blind folded and expected to fight one another until there were only two men left in the ring. The entire purpose of this humiliating debacle was no different than what the naked white woman was for the group. During this era in time, both African Americans and women were not valued the same as the white man. Although being black was very different than being a white female, both were disgraced as lesser than white men, in terms of equality. The naked woman was a bold representation of the African American history of slavery and abuse that had been predominant in this racist culture.
The irony of the scene is that these young black men were forced to look at a naked white woman, which would have been completely unacceptable to do in those times. A black man engaging with a white woman was forbidden and would have caused a lot of trouble for the black man. But here, the white woman who was used similarly to the black race, was placed to be gawked at and harassed by the white men who felt it was their ‘God given right’ but if the black men were to touch her, the situation would have become violent and brutal. The naked blonde also made me think of the way that the African American’s were vulnerable and succumbed to the unfair requests of the white men that were toying with her at the event. The lack of respect was one of the boldest statements that one could connect with the woman and the African American community.
The insanity of the scene of the blind-folded men forced to fight one another, after being exposed to a naked white woman displayed the cruelty and hatred of the white man against the black men. The idea of teasing these men with the ‘American Dream’, then blindfolding them to fight for it was unbelievable painful to read when connecting the two aspects of the story. Not only was the naked white woman an unforbidden fruit, but she had a flag tattooed above her pelvis which made her, “the American Dream”, that much more tempting and unattainable by the African American men (race) of the time.
I cannot help but to finalize the discussion by expressing the sad and troubling depiction of the helpless blonde who was left to be tossed around without any care by the white devils that brought her on for their pleasure, which clearly reminds the reader of the condition of the African Americans as they entered the nation with dreams of something greater. They came to find themselves in a blindfolded hell living at the mercy of these white men who did not consider their existence as equal to their own. Although this portion was not about the naked blonde, I must comment. The part of the story where the men were scrambling for coins on a rug that was causing electric shock after all that they had been through was beyond sickening to me. After all the torture that they faced, they still had to endure more just to collect the money. This was similar to the way the naked blond was tossed around naked before taken safely out of the room after she completed her ‘duty.’
The symbolism of the naked woman was complex yet parallel to the racism that was prevalent during those times. Fortunately both women and racial equality have made progress over the years, but reminding the people of the reality that once existed through literature of the era is important to educate the youth of what people once faced. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "America is essentially a dream - a dream yet unfulfilled" (Sundquist, 2011).
Ralph Ellison. "Battle Royal." Meyer, Michael. 10th Ed. The Compact Bedford Introduction to
Literature. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2014. 226-235. Print.
Sundquist, Eric J. ""we Dreamed a Dream": Ralph Ellison, Martin Luther King, Jr. & Barack
Obama." Daedalus 140.1 (2011): 108,124,8. ProQuest. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.
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