A blindfold, in isolation, is imbued with many different symbolic connotations, but in the context of the "battle royal" in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, the blindfold takes on even more representational significance.
The boys taking part in the battle royal are blindfolded by the white leaders of their community. The men doing the blindfolding are taking charge, symbolically and literally, of what the boys are able to perceive while fighting one another. That these perceptions are controlled and managed by blindfolds applied by the white men is significant; even now, many might argue that much of the American experience is controlled and managed by the white male population, no matter who is wearing the metaphorical blindfold.
A blindfold is an item that ensures vulnerability, as the ability to see is compromised. Anyone wearing a blindfold is forced to trust the people who act as guides, or they must grasp helplessly in darkness. The white men who force vulnerability on the boys do so...
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