How does the first paragraph of the story sum up the conflict that the narrator confronts in Battle Royal?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Ralph Ellison's first paragraph of Invisible Man begins with the sentence, "I am an invisible man" which he clarifies with the final sentence of that paragraph,

When they approach me, they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination--indeed, everything and anything except me.

Ellison's narrator is "invisible" because he could be any black man since he is perceived not as an individual, but as a stereotype.  He is the stereotypical "Negro animal," considered subhuman, that reacts according to his desires and physical urges.  Placed in a ring, he will fight the other males, especially with a woman there.  He desires a white woman like no other, he will fight others in his way, for he is unthinking.  The cigar-smoking white men do not look at faces, they simply enjoy the animalism of the "fenced" situation they have created in which they exploit the young men for their own prurient delights.

As the novel progresses, the narrator learns that no matter what he tries to become, no matter what group promises him that he can truly be a man, he yet remains invisible.  In the final chapter, the narrator decries the falsity of society and communism:

I have been hurt to the point of abysmal pain, hurt to the point of invisibility.

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