What is the significance of the nude dancer in "Battle Royal"?

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The significance of the dancer is two-fold. First, she serves as a way to make the boys in the ring even more uncomfortable than they already are. The white men have designed an event to make all of the black characters feel small, unimportant, and less worthy as people. The...

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The significance of the dancer is two-fold. First, she serves as a way to make the boys in the ring even more uncomfortable than they already are. The white men have designed an event to make all of the black characters feel small, unimportant, and less worthy as people. The nude woman serves as a tool that the white men use to further dehumanize the boys; however, the nude woman is also important at showing how the white men view anybody that isn't a white man. The men do not see the nude woman as any more worthy of their respect than they give the black boys in the ring. It is blatant sexual objectification on their part. They have reduced the woman to nothing more than the sum of her feminine, attractive parts. Her feelings do not matter to the men. Her thoughts do not matter. She is an attractive, nude woman that is there for their sexual titillation. She is an object to be used and abused, and that is why some of the men even begin attempting to grope her.

As the dancer flung herself about with a detached expression on her face, the men began reaching out to touch her. I could see their beefy fingers sink into her soft flesh. . . It was mad. Chairs went crashing, drinks were spilt, as they ran laughing and howling after her. They caught her just as she reached a door, raised her from the floor, and tossed her as college boys are tossed at a hazing, and above her red, fixed-smiling lips I saw the terror and disgust in her eyes, almost like my own terror and that which I saw in some of the other boys.

Just like the boys, the nude woman has been dehumanized so that the powerful white men might have some "fun."

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The narrator—along with some of his class mates—is forced to participate in a series of humiliating, degrading activities at what he thought would be his high school graduation speech. He's an unwilling participant in what turns out to be an evening's entertainment for a roomful of baying, drunken white men. Part of that entertainment involves an erotic dance performed by a nude lady with an American flag tattooed on her stomach.

The significance of the dance is that the noble values represented by the flag are distorted by the evening's sordid events. The flag is supposed to represent liberty above all else, and yet the tawdry, sleazy spectacle that unfolds is an attack on liberty, exploiting the young African American boys as well as the exotic dancer. Their freedom is compromised as they are part of groups in society that effectively have no power.

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