How did the Harlem Renaissance writers and intellectuals pave the way for Ellison's "Battle Royal" with themes that he continued to explore?Ralph Ellison's "Battle Royal"
Known as the "New Negro Movement" the Harlem Renaissance was characterized by a racial pride exhibited in literature, art, and music that
challenged the pervading racism and stereotypes to promote progressive or socialist politics, and racial and social integration.
The artists of the Harlem Renaissance felt that creation of art and literature would serve to "uplift" the race, providing a sense of pride in their ethnic identity. They also felt that with the socialist movement they would be treated more equally and be recognized as individuals.
Ellison touches upon the idea of the "invisibleness" of the African-American as he expresses his present existence as not a part of society, but only "separate fingers on the hand" of what is white-controlled society. In the first chapter of his novel Invisible Man, a chapter that was first published as a short story, Ellison declares that
I am nobody but myself. But first I had to discover that I am an invisible man!
In a "battle royal," a group boxing match, the narrator's invisibility is symbolized, of course, by the forced social blinding of the young men in the presence of the naked blonde as they look down and desperately avoid eye contact with her out of fear of being lynched. And, after she is removed, the invisibility is further symbolized by the actual blindfolds that are put upon the young men who are made to continue fighting each other in a boxing ring. Thisexploitation of the young men points to their existence as "separate fingers" as the narrator comments that "[T]here was nothing to do but what we were told." Having had this experience and then the contradictory experience of receiving a scholarship, the narrator is haunted by the words of his grandfather. In a dream that night, the narrator's conflicts reach a conclusion that he, indeed, is yet a victim of racism and stereotyping and will remain one as the many envelopes he opens one after another symbolize years, as his grandfather tells him.