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What do you believe the biggest point Ralph Ellison is makng in "The Invisible Man"...

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aanderson0163 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 30, 2009 at 6:41 PM via web

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What do you believe the biggest point Ralph Ellison is makng in "The Invisible Man" Chapter 1 Battle Raoyal?

What do you believe the biggest point Ralph Ellison is makng in "The Invisible Man" Chapter 1 Battle Raoyal?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 30, 2009 at 9:12 PM (Answer #2)

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Exploitation and delusion.  In Chapter 1, Ralph Ellison's narrator has a speech on humility and submission as key to the advancement of black Americans, a speech in accord with Booker T. Washington, which he has successfully delivered at high school.  He wins a prize and is invited to deliver this speech at a gathering of the leading white citizens.  However, when he arrives, he is invited to a "Battle Royal" in which he and other boys are put in a ring to fight.  Before they fight they are subjected to viewing a naked blonde-haired white girl whose stomach is painted with the flag.  If the boys do not look at her, they are threatened by white men.  After this, the white men blindfold the men and demand that they punch one another unmercifully.  Then, when the men tire of watching this punching feast, they have the young men go to an area where there are coins and bills of money on a rug.  The boys dive for the coins only to discover that an electric current courses through the rug, but the white men coerce the boys to fall face first upon the rug.

When the narrator is finally allowed to give his speech, the white men laugh and ignore him as he quotes Booker T. Washington.  When he accidentally repeats "social responsibility" as "social equality," he is berated.  However, he is given a calfskin briefcase which contains a scholarship to college and the brass "coins" from the rug.  That night the narrator dreams and is awakened, he thinks, by his grandfather's laughter.

The narrator comes to realize that his beliefs in Washington's theory of hard work and obedience earning him respect is a mask, like the blindfolds that the fighters wear.  His words simply meet with ridicule and he is exploited as he is forced to fight.  Obviously, Ralph Ellison faulted the philosophy of optimistic faith in white society, his message in Chapter One.

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