“Battle Royal,” published as a short story and then as the first chapter in The Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison presents the main character, the unnamed young, black narrator. The story takes place in the 1930s in a town which is fully segregated. Told by the older narrator, he reminiscences about his early life.
The initial incident in the story concerns the death of the protagonist’s grandfather. On his death bed, the grandfather purports to being a spy in the white man’s world. The old man explains that the life of the black man is a war to gain their independence. He became whatever the white world wanted him to be. It is unclear to whom he feels he has betrayed: his race, himself, or his family.
He advises his children to maintain two identities: the bitter, resentful part of themselves and the stereotypical model of the meek, subservient Negro. From this model, his descendants can protect their personal self-respect, yet internally despise the second-class citizen...
(The entire section contains 657 words.)