In the story Battle Royal, what is the symbolism of the dancing blonde woman?

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The dancing girl performing at the evening's "entertainment" represents something that the narrator, as with all African-Americans, cannot have. The narrator lives in a deeply segregated society in which sexual relations between the races is considered completely unacceptable. So for him and the other boys to be confronted by an attractive white woman acts as a reminder to them of their place in society.

Whatever the boys might want, and whatever they might hope, they will never be allowed to take their place in society. The woman is strictly off-limits to them in the way that the benefits of white society are to be denied them, whether it's a decent education or a good job.

The tattoo of the American flag on the dancer's belly reinforces the scene's deep symbolism. The promise of America is ultimately out of reach for the narrator and the other boys. It's as if the flag belongs to a different country, a country where they're not welcome. The tattoo acts as evidence of ownership. The...

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Last Reviewed by eNotes Editorial on December 5, 2019