What is the significance of the fight and the electrified rug?

The significance of the fight and the electrified rug is that both demonstrate the power white people hold over Black people in society. The significance of the electrified rug in particular is to reinforce that Black people cannot earn economic rewards in white society without be subjected to pain and humiliation. Both show that white people don't see the Black people in their midst as fully human, but as objects they can ridicule, torment, and laugh at.

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In "Battle Royal," the fight and the struggle on the electric rug both symbolize the power white people hold over Black people in society and the difficulties they subject Black people to. In particular, the electrified rug, where the Black youth are told to collect money, shows that Black people are forced to accept pain and humiliation as the price of even a small economic gain in white society. It is a final sadistic game the Black men are forced to play for the amusement of their white audience.

After the blindfolded fight, the young men are "rewarded" by being able to collect money scattered on a rug. They dive for it, only to be surprised by painful electric shocks. The white people laugh as the Black men jump and cry out in response to the pain. Most of the young men crawl around the edge of the rug, trying to collect the coins that have bounced onto the floor, but one youth is tossed back on:

Suddenly I saw a boy lifted into the air, glistening with sweat like a circus seat, and dropped, his wet back landing flush upon the charged rug, heard him yell and saw him literally dance upon his back, his elbows beating a frenzied tattoo upon the floor, his muscles twitching like the flesh of a horse stung by many flies. When be finally rolled off, his face was gray and no one stopped him when he ran from the floor amid booming laughter.

The scenes on the rug and the battle royal show that Black people are not seen as fully human by the white people in their society. They are the "other," lesser beings who are being taught at an early age that white people hold all the cards, make all the rules, and will not let Black people earn anything without torment. The narrator also learns that white people will cheat Black people when he finds out that what he thought were gold coins on the rug are nothing but worthless brass tokens.

All of this helps wake the narrator up to the fact he is invisible to white society, which, in turn, helps him to stop trying to accommodate it.

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