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Circus imagery, represented by the clowns in the dream, is significant in the Battle Royal in that the the black boys, who are forced to entertain the white men, are treated as if they are no better than animals. The grandfather's advice was to "live with your head in the lion's mouth," thus comparing the white man to a lion tamer. The white stripper is described as having hair "yellow that like of a circus kewpie doll"; the young men are treated like "circus clowns." One is even characterized as "glistening with sweat like a circus seal."
The dream reveals his grandfather who "refused to laugh at the clowns no matter what they did" because they represent blacks forced by white society to "perform" humiliating acts to entertain the whites. The grandfather knows they are his own people, forced into acts of submission, just as the boys were in the Battle Royal. The seemingly endless series of envelopes implies that white society will continue to make a clown of Invisible Man.
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