The narrator of “Battle Royal,” lived his life under the illusion that everybody had an equal chance in life. He desperately wanted and tried to please everyone, thinking that if he did he would eventually rise and become somebody great. He was a great speaker and his speeches won him great recognition, but he did not realize that nobody took him seriously. He was trapped in a body of inferior qualities and would never amount to anything.
The setting of “Battle Royal,” was recently after slavery had been abolished. A time where blacks were free, but looked upon and treated with less than equality. The narrator was praised by the whitest of white men in the town, and looked upon as an example of desirable conduct. What he did not understand was that they did not think any more of him than any other black man, he was just another nigger to them.
The magnificent blonde that paraded around the middle of the boxing ring was more than just amusement. This was everything that these black men wanted, but would never have. She represented the American dream of power, wealth, and fame. The narrator knew he could never have her, but he looked anyway. “Had the price of looking been blindness, I would have looked.” Pg198. The author had devoted his life to pleasing the white men, so he could speak, to be somebody, but he would never amount to anything. He was their toy.
The “Battle Royal,” itself was a thorough example of the power that the white man had over the blacks. All ten of the boys were made to go through acts of humiliation before and after they had fought and made to wear blindfolds during the actual fight. The boys were degraded and humiliated throughout the whole event and didn’t once think that they were being mistreated. They were scared of the white men and what might happen if they did not cooperate. The boys had been brought in to fight for the men and be nothing more than an amusement.
After the fight was over the boys were led to an electrified rug, covered in piles of money, which they were told was to be their reward. There appeared to be quite a sum of coins, crumpled bills, and gold pieces, which turned out to be next to nothing considering the gold pieces were actually brass advertising tokens. The boys had been misled, lied to, and physically abused, but never spoke out against the white men once. The white men knew the could do whatever they wanted and they did.
A few days after the fight the narrator had a dream that he and his grandfather were at the circus. “…I dreamed that I was at the circus and that he refused to laugh at the clowns no matter what they did.” Pg. 205. This dream was an image of what had happened that night at the “Battle Royal.” He was one of the white men sitting in the crowd looking at what had been him and the other boys which were represented by the clowns. His grandfather was trying to show him what he had really looked like that night in the ring. Then he opened his briefcase to read what was inside. He opened the envelope stamped with the state seal only to endlessly find envelope after envelope. His grandfather explained to him that these envelops represented years of his life. Finally the last envelope contained a letter which read, “To Whom It May Concern, Keep This Nigger Boy Running.” Pg. 205. This letter represented what the white man wanted for him. They wanted him to become educated and to eventually lead his people. They figured that they could keep him busy leading his people in circles. To keep them ever chasing their dreams to which they would never catch up with.
The narrator had lived his whole life chasing his dreams and continually ignoring the reality of his situation. He thought the white men were helping him to achieve his goals and eventually he would get to where he wanted to be. What he did not realize was that he was doing everything the white man wanted him to. They did not take him seriously and they never would.