What is the central conflict in "Battle Royal"?

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The central conflict in "Battle Royal" is of the character versus society variety: the narrator conflicts with the white society that demeans and oppresses him. First, he is invited to give his speech, which champions black "humility" as the pathway to progress, to a group of local white businessmen. It is, presumably, this speech that makes him a target of his black peers. Then, he is compelled, among a group of young black men, to look at a blond white woman who is "stark naked." Some of the powerful white men "threatened us if we looked and others if we did not," he says. One boy pleads to go...

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The major structural development in the story is that of black against white. The other is the outright contempt and mistreatment of the black boys by the white spectators. There is also a broader conflict between oppressor and oppressed, for the white dancer might be included as one of the exploited. When she is tossed in the air it is clear that she, too, is being dehumanized, just like the boys (paragraph  9). In addition, Ellison brings out the conflict of ordinary male adolescent intimidation, for the boys by no means present an organized and unified front. The larger boy, Tatlock, dramatizes his contempt for the narrator both with words and fists (paragraphs 27-37). We may conclude that Tatlock embodies the hostility and jealousy that the less intelligent often exhibit toward the more intelligent.

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