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Ralph Ellison, "Battle Royal" Lesson Plan

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James Dunn

on 9 October 2014

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Transcript of Ralph Ellison, "Battle Royal" Lesson Plan

W.E.B. DuBois

Criticized Washington for what he viewed as giving in and submitting to the white culture
Blacks must resist the racist order of the South

Ralph Ellison, "Battle Royal"
I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.

- from the Prologue to Invisible Man

About Ralph Ellison
Born in Oklahoma City
Middle name is Waldo; his parents named him after Emerson, hoping he’d grow up to be a poet
Father worked in construction and as a vendor of ice and coal. He died when Ralph was 3; after this his mother supported herself and her children by working as a domestic servant.

“Battle Royal”
Taken from the first chapter of Invisible Man
IM published in 1952
National Book Award in 1953.
As you read the story, think of the intersecting issues of race, class, and gender.

Conflicted Identity
Ambiguity of Grandfather’s message
Speaker’s confusion
In the elevator with the other fighters , showdown with Tatlock
The dancer
-American flag
-Speaker identifies with her
The electrified rug
His speech

With the help of a music scholarship, studied at the Tuskegee Institute from 1933-1936.
The Booker T. Washington connection
Dropped out and moved to New York to study sculpture, but his plans soon changed again
Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, and the Federal Writer’s Project
Became an editor of The Negro Quarterly
WWII 1943-1945, Merchant Marines

ENG 201-40

Comes from a speech given by Booker T. Washington at the 1895 Atlanta Exposition
Also known as:
-The Atlanta Compromise Speech
-The “Cast Your Bucket” speech
Urged blacks to learn manual labor and soothed the white community’s fears of black rebellion
-Assimilation, cooperation

The Narrator's Speech
Debate Within the Black Community
Booker T. Washington vs.
W.E.B. DuBois

Booker T. Washington

Manual Labor
Blacks must learn to live within the racist order of the South

"Battle Royal" Paragraph
For the remainder of the period, you are to write a paragraph in response to the following prompt:

- How does Ellison address the issue of black identity in “Battle Royal”?

The first sentence of your response should be argumentative and should serve as the thesis of your paragraph.
The body of your paragraph should contain concrete details (quotations, facts, etc…) that prove your thesis.
The summation sentence should sum up and shed new light on your argument.
Thesis Statements/Topic Sentences
In Ellison’s “Battle Royal,” an ambitious young black man undergoes a series of grotesque treatments by white men, showing the feebleness and disorder of black identity in the early 1900s.
In “Battle Royal,” Ralph Ellison shows the feebleness and disorder of black identity in the early 1900s through the subjection of his young black narrator to a series of grotesque treatments by white men.

Sample Paragraph Template
An argumentative and analytical thesis statement.

Concrete detail.


Concrete detail.

Concrete detail
Summation sentence.

blue = concrete detail;

red = analysis
In “Battle Royal,” Ralph Ellison shows the feebleness and disorder of black identity in the early 1900s through the subjection of his young black narrator to a series of grotesque treatments by white men.

The narrator is unnamed,

suggesting the way that white people viewed African-Americans as invisible, irrelevant, and unimportant.

The narrator is blindfolded and forced to compete in a vicious Battle Royal boxing match.

The blindfold represents how race relations were a blinded fight with no coordination or apparent sense of direction.

"Ralph Ellison: An American Story"
Produced by Avon Kirkland. PBS American Masters, Sundance Film Festival
"Battle Royal" Scene
More About Ralph Ellison
Which side do you think Ellison supports in “Battle Royal”? How do you know this?
Full transcript