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

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the story, the dancing blond woman symbolizes forbidden sensuality; she is also a temptation leveraged by unethical men for their own sadistic pleasures. 

The blonde's seductive appeal draws male eyes to her. The white men and African American teenagers are fascinated by her, but only the former are allowed to consider developing sexual relationships with her. The narrator and his group of peers are taunted for the dilemma they find themselves in.

In truth, the narrator is horrified by the intensity of his emotions towards the dancing blonde. The text tells us that he both despises and desires her. His conflicting emotions cause him to become angry and confused. He knows that he is damned if he looks at her and damned if he doesn't. The white men understand the universality of male sexual arousal and are using it to tempt the African American teenage boys to indiscreet behavior. For their part, the boys recognize their predicament: if they succumb to their sexual inclinations, their lives may be forfeit.

It is very likely that the narrator's upbringing has inspired his disgust with the dancing blonde's seemingly uninhibited postures. Yet, he is naturally drawn to her undulating, naked body. He is not the only one facing a dilemma: another boy unsuccessfully tries to cover his erection with his boxing gloves. 

So, the dancing blonde symbolizes forbidden sensuality and a sexual tool utilized by unethical men for their own sadistic pleasures.


amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The narrator of the Battle Royal understands that the both he and his group of "warriors" as well as the dancing blonde woman symbolize the otherness of women and minorities during this time period.  White men were in control.  They used women and the black boys as playthings for their entertainment.  Both the woman and the boys are reduced to "things" in this book, and especially in this excerpt.  They can not hope to be treated as humans...not even with the delivery of his excellent speech about, ironically, "social responsibility". 

The woman is naked and seems to be under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or the protection of her own mind taking her to another place far from the oogling eyes of these men and boys. She is an embarrassment to herself and to the black boys since to look on a white women with clothing on is not acceptable, much less to stare at a naked white woman.  She is the forbidden land for these boys.  The emotions they have in seeing her are channeled into a free-for-all chaotic blindfolded boxing match.  The boys are filled with shock at her state, embarrassment at having witnessed it and reacting sexually to it, and rage at the white men for having subjected them to this seige of emotions for their own evil entertainment.

To the white men, this woman nor the boys are individuals.  They are no better than animals thrown into a ring and made to bleed internally and externally.

vastelectron | Student

to muzzly123, so is hypocracy, there is no such word

djl2284 | Student

First of all, muzzly123 is incorrect. She does NOT symbolize America. Her American flag tattoo is an ironic gesture added by Ellison. America is supposed to be the land where "all men are created equal." However, ironically, she is in an environment that does not embrace equality. Secondly, amy-lepore is on point with her answer. The blonde woman symbolizes a "forbidden fruit" that the black boys cannot have, let alone touch. Furthermore, she is another disenfranchised person to the white men. They use her as a form of entertainment.

Lastly, not most importantly, muzzly123, "garuenteed" is NOT a word. Spell check your responses. The person who asked this question is OBVIOUSLY going to use the responses in an assignment for school; therefore, you shouldn't use words that don't exist. You don't want her to get points docked off due to a spelling error, do you?

muzzly123 | Student

The woman is actually a symbol for america, hence the american flag tatoo and the red and blue makeup. She symbolizes the supposed equality that is garuenteed by our constitution. She holds a low level in the social stratification, yet she still is held in higher respects than the blacks. They are ashamed to look at her, signifying their blindness to freedom and to the hypocracy of america.

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Battle Royal; or, The Invisible Man

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