How would you describe the language of the story "Battle Royal" by Ralph Ellison?

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Battle Royal” is written in the first person, as the narrator tells the reader what happened to him in the past.

The language used by the narrator is fairly plain, as the author does not use many ornate or even dramatic expressions. However, the language used is quite...

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Battle Royal” is written in the first person, as the narrator tells the reader what happened to him in the past.

The language used by the narrator is fairly plain, as the author does not use many ornate or even dramatic expressions. However, the language used is quite analytical, especially at the beginning of the story, when the narrator reflects back on his younger years. This can be seen in expressions such as “I was naïve.”

The language used in “Battle Royal” is mainly descriptive, as it describes the narrator’s surroundings as they were perceived by the narrator at the time: “chairs were arranged in neat rows around.” The reason for this is the fact that the author wants the reader to discover the story through the eyes of his protagonist. Therefore, the language used in the story is the language of the thoughts of the protagonist. Just like in real life, some of his thoughts and observations are short, which is reflected in the use of short sentences: “I almost wet my pants.” On other occasions, his thoughts are more in-depth and more convoluted, which the author mirrors through the use of longer and more complex sentences. This allows the readers to identify themselves better with the protagonist, as they gain deeper insight into his thoughts.

The author chooses to use direct speech when quoting what people are saying. On these occasions, the language changes to the kind of language which the person speaking would have used. This refers not only to the choice of words, but also to speaker's pronunciation: “overcome 'em with yeses ... let 'em swoller you.” The use of this method helps the author to make the story more realistic, as it gives the impression to the readers that they are actually hearing those words being spoken. This becomes even more effective on those occasions when the author uses this technique to quote whole interactions between people. Again, the use of direct speech helps the reader to feel part of these conversations.

Whilst the language is mainly descriptive and plain, the author does occasionally use figurative language. For example, the narrator tells us that his expectations are “boomeranging,” and later on we read that he saw “a sea of faces.”

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