Discuss how the protagonist's expectations in "Battle Royal" are similar to what has come to be known as the American Dream: the assumption that ambition, hard work, perseverance, intelligence, and virtue always lead to success.

In "Battle Royal," the white men bet on the winner, which is the narrator. The narrator thinks that he will win because of his intelligence and hard work. However, this realization causes him to realize that every slave was just like him, doing what they had to in order to get by. He doesn't want to be a part of the game anymore so he drops out of it before anyone can force him into participating in it again.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The protagonist's expectations are similar to the American Dream in that he thinks that if he strives hard, he will ultimately succeed.

However, that turns out not to be the case. The evening's "entertainment" of which he is a part is rigged for the benefit of a crowd of baying white men. The American Dream is supposed to entail a reward for hard work and endeavor, but for the narrator of "Battle Royal," his reward—if one wishes to call it that—consists of some worthless coins.

The narrator worked hard for these coins, publicly humiliating himself by picking them up off an electrified rug and engaging in brutal boxing bouts with the other Black boys. But in the end, he's wound up with nothing to show for his efforts.

This distorted version of the American Dream is not something that anyone in their right mind would seriously endorse. A number of critics have seen in "Battle Royal" a kind of metaphor for the American Dream as it exists for most people. Because the American Dream is precisely that for most people: a dream, something that can never be achieved, no matter how much pain, hard work, and suffering one endures.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on