What is a good thesis statement about racism for Ralph Ellison's "Battle Royal"?  

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literaturenerd's profile pic

literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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There are many different thesis statements which one could use to examine racism in Ralph Ellison's short story "Battle Royal."

1. Racism plays a very important role in the movement of the Ralph Ellison's short story "Battle Royal."

2. The role of racism, in Ralph Ellison's short story "Battle Royal." affects the incidents portrayed in the text.

3. The narrator of Ralph Ellison's short story "Battle Royal" must come to understand the effect which racism has on in society before he is able to make a change in his life.

4. One does not need to look very deeply in Ralph Ellison's short story "Battle Royal" to find different elements and examples of racism.

5. The narrator of Ralph Ellison's short story "Battle Royal" feels so alienated by society given his race that he feels as if he must regard himself as an "invisible man."

6. The protagonist in Ralph Ellison's Short story "Battle Royal" embraces his invisibility as a way to survive in a world which embraces racism.


mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One thesis for "The Battle Royal" should include the idea of exploitation in racism.

Though the focus of the narrative is on racial exploitation, the exploitation of women is also evinced with the introduction in which a drunken and nude white female dancer comes out. The cigar-smoking and whiskey-drinking men, who are the community's leading white citizens, try to grope her and force the frightened black high school boys to look at her--an act for which black males could be hanged in the South--but she makes her escape. Then, nine young African American males are blindfolded and made to box one another for the amusement of their white audience. Finally, only the narrator is left with the biggest fighter named Tatlock; the narrator tries to bribe Tatlock, but the mean fighter refuses and the narrator is knocked out.

After this event, the same young men are invited to grab as many gold coins as they can off a rug. But, when they try to pick up the coins, they receive electric shocks as the rug has been wired underneath, so they are again exploited for the delight of the white men.

Later, the narrator gives his graduation speech before an audience of prominent citizens who applaud his words that underscore blacks' acceptance of the social ranks until the narrator, whose mouth is sore from his fighting, says "social equality" instead of "social responsibility" and a threatening silence emanates from the audience. Then, when he corrects himself, the audience applauds. That evening, he brings home a briefcase given him along with a scholarship to the "Negro" college.

That night the narrator dreams about going to a circus with his grandfather, a place where many are exploited. His grandfather finds no delight in the acts, including those of the clowns. Later, his grandfather tells the narrator to open the briefcase that he received with his scholarship. Inside is an official envelope with a state seal. This envelope has another inside it which contains a note that reads, “To Whom It May Concern . . . Keep This Nigger-Boy Running.” 

Clearly, with the actions of the audience, whether in the forcing of the black males to look at the nude white woman, in the boxing match, in the competition for gold coins, or in the auditorium where the graduation speech is given, elements of exploitation--both racist and sexist--are apparent. This could form the basis of a thesis statement on "Battle Royal."


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