Free college essay on The Battle Royal:
An archetypal initiation story involves a protagonist, of a specific culture, sorting through a personal battle of good versus evil. In order to combat unethical or immoral practices, the protagonist must find, within himself, a way to make the change. “The Battle Royal” by Ralph Waldo Ellison is an archetypal initiation story told by the protagonist, an African American male narrator. In his late teen age years, he must complete a speech, and then live up to his grandfather’s dying wish. Telling the story twenty years later, the narrator remembers the cultural journey he made to become the man he is today.
Mordecai Marcus has said that an initiation story will “show it’s protagonist experiencing a significant change of knowledge…or a change of character…and this change must point or lead him toward an adult world.”(219). The “Battle Royal” taken from the book, “the Invisible Man”, is the most conclusive of any initiation stories, showing the protagonist “embarked toward maturity” (219). First, the narrator must attend an unexpected battle, fighting his fellow classmates, then suffering electrocution, in order to say a speech. Saying the speech is very important to him, and after making the speech, he receives a briefcase containing a scholarship. Knowing that his grandfather would be proud, after receipt of the scholarship, the narrator went to his grandfather’s photograph. He “stood beneath his photograph with [his] briefcase in hand and smiled triumphantly into his stolid black peasant’s face” (218). By completing the speech, the narrator has faced what most archetypal initiation stories consider rules of culture and heroics. Participation in the battle and the subsequent scholarship form a “most decisive” (219) protagonist. According to Marcus, this type of protagonist is the most important of any initiation story….