After I read the story “Battle Royal” by Ralph Ellison, I could not restrain my thoughts about issues of morality and what it has to do with reality, from clashing in to one another in my mind. As these two completely different ideas were pushing me to the brink of madness, my mind began to click.
At this point I came to the realization that a person’s reality, that is that person’s mental reflection of the society and/or time in which he or she lives, is consistent with that person’s morality or standards of right and wrong. I realize that my concept of a person”s reality being consistent with morality is quite confusing. I also accept the fact that there are always exceptions to rules. The story “Battle Royal” is the key in understanding and seeing the relationship between morality and reality.Order now
The characters in this story, namely the grandfather and his grandson, reveal to us their individuality, principles, morals, and ethics. Doing so they unfold a map that reveals their mental reality. Because their principals, morals and ethics reveal to us their mental reality, then their mental reality discloses the reality of the society in which they live. “Battle Royal” is a story about a black boy that is psychologically wakened when he overhears what his grandfather says on his deathbed to his father. Our hero”s journey toward the light truth is started a long time ago. However in the beginning he is unable to get on the right course, due to the wrong advice he is given by different people; he says it as “All my life I had been looking for something, and everywhere that I turned someone tried to tell me what it was.
I accepted their answers too, though they were often in contradiction” 223. Because each time that he accepts their advice he is little by little pushed off the right track. It is not until he realizes that he is searching for himself, and instead of asking others questions, he needs to ask the questions to himself. Once he discovers whom to turn to, he begins a long and difficult journey in which he realizes that he is a unique person. He puts it as, “I am nobody but myself” 223. This means that he is unique and he is who he is, black.
However before he comes to this enlightenment he discovers that he is an “invisible man” 223. He marks himself invisible because in the society in which a person is unheard and unseen by others he is invisible. At that point our young friend”s problem is clear. He is a black boy in a White men”s world, in which he is not seen or heard. Yet he still does not know what to do about it until he hears his grandfather’s words to his father: Son, after I”m gone I want you to keep up a good fight. I never told you, but your life is a war and I have been a traitor all my born days, a spy in the enemy”s country ever since I give up my gun back in the Reconstruction. Live with your head in the lion”s mouth. I want you to overcome”em with yeses, undermine”em with grins, agree”em to death and destruction, let”em swoller you till they vomit or bust wide open. Learn it to the younguns. 223 These last words that his grandfather speaks are the chain-breakers that set the young boy”s mind free. These are the words that guide him on the right path to the realization of who he is, and how he needs to start thinking and acting.
However, this path that his grandfather sets him on, is one that presents many mind-tormenting problems. This boy and all like him live in a white dominated society, and the white men in the society can be seen as the puppeteers. In his society the black people are chained down in a reality in which the white dominating society imposes certain morals or principles by which the black community needs to act.
However unlike the people around him, he is able to break the chains that imprison his mind and see how things really work. He first gets a true sense in what kind of society he lives when he is invited to give his graduation speech at the battle royal. A battle royal is a sort of a barbarous boxing match in which black boys with blindfolds are forced to fight each other for the entertainment of certain town”s men. Our hero is also made to participate in this activity. “I was shocked to see some of the most important men of the town quite tipsy,” he says when he sees who is there. “They were all there-bankers, lawyers, judges, doctors, fire chiefs, teachers, merchants. Even one of the more fashionable pastors.” 225. After the fight, in front of that drunk and perverted crowd of white influential males he is going to present his graduation speech, a speech that address “Social responsibility” 231. At the end of the story we finally see how his morality becomes constant with the reality that he lives. The night after the Battle Royal he has a dream.
In it he hears his grandfather give him instructions to read a note that is in the briefcase which was given to him as an award. The note read, “To Whom It May Concern, Keep this Nigger-Boy Running” 233. This is the point that he realizes that the nice things he has been given are not for his benefit, but he is being about with these gifts. From all this he now knows for a fact that he lives in a society that does not except him as a person, but rather more like an animal that does not disserve any human rights. Because this society is his reality, he now needs to alter his moral ideas so it will compliment his newly realized reality.