Cultural significance of Ralph Waldo Ellison

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Battle Royal by Ellison, Ralph

Ellison’s the Battle Royal is more that just a story as it focuses on the hardships an individual endures as an African-American male. Using an anonymous narrator, Ellison describes the battle royal that such individual has to go through in order to obtain freedom. The protagonist, nameless narrator struggles to find his place within the twentieth century society based in the south of America (Ellison (a) 56). The narrator ends up in a fight only to realize that he has been hurt and created division amongst the fighters when he call on them to have ‘social equality.’

Battle royal is a metaphoric book that attempts to address the struggle of Black America to obtain freedom from oppression hence attaining social equality. Battle Royal is a title representing fights individuals must win in order to be free. From this novel, Ellison depicts American culture as one that is full of oppression and inequality especially on the basis of tribe or race. The Black Americans are ill-treated by White Americans. Despite their struggle to obtain equality and freedom from oppression, Black Americans as portrayed by the narrator have to undergo serious pain and suffering. Nevertheless, the main undoing of Black Americans while fighting against oppression is the use of physical fight other than intellectual fight. Contemporary, such wars are fought through empowerment, which may be education-wise of otherwise.

This novel explains vividly how Ellison views the contemporary society in terms of culture. Through Battle Royal is becomes easy to identify various aspects of culture that Ellison discusses through using an anonymous narrator. Therefore, this book provides perceptions of Ellison, which make it possible to identify his cultural significance in the current society.

Invisible Man by Ellison, Ralph

The Invisible man is a novel describing how the narrator, who is not named in the book, grew up in the black community within the South. During the period, the narrator attended a Negro school but was later on expelled leading to his entry into New York City to be the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of the commonly known “the Brotherhood”. In addition, the nameless narrator retreats back amidst high violence and an environment and lifestyle that is full of deceits and lies (Ellison (b) 35). Confusion also engulfs the region in which the narrator seems to be operating from. After all, the narrator imagines being an invisible man.

While under the influence of works of Eliot, Ellison wrote the Invisible Man. Within this text Ellison identifies the society as a black community full of social evil. Violence, confusion, and deceits are the main aspects of social evil that Ellison attempts to develop from this book. From the book, there is so much about cultural aspects of different nations despite the book being written in American context. There is no doubt that in the contemporary world social evil is at its peak causing a lot of tension amongst different cultures.

In explaining cultural significance of Ellison, this book was very useful since it provided information on how Ellison perceives the society. Ellison’s perception about the society vividly describes various cultural underpinnings not only to the American context but the world in general. This book has helped in understanding Ellison as a culturally significant person.

Shadow and Act by Ellison, Ralph

Ellison’s Shadow and Act is a novel describing disparity within screen images of Black Americans. Different shadows drawn to describe the reality of Black Americans in respect to their lives are vividly described by the author in this book. The book is comprised of a collection of information obtained from American folklore, music, literature, and rituals amongst others in a bid to identifying aspects of various cultures (Ellison (c)).

Shadow and Act is a book that describes the complications within relationships in America between American culture and the Negro-American subculture. Consequently, there has been serious incongruence between these two forms of culture thereby complicating existence of Black Americans. Through this book Ellison demonstrates that differences in such cultures have created opportunities for some cultures to take advantage of others thereby causing a great rift between Black Americans and White Americans.

Like many of his books, Ellison vividly describes his understanding of the American culture. Despite being a Black American, Ellison attempts to provide arguments for and against all forms of culture in America without exaggerations or biasness. Through his views on cultural aspects of both American and Negro-American, it becomes clear that Ellison is culturally conscious hence provides information that make it possible to identify his significance culturally within the literary world.

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  1. Ellison, Ralph (a). “Battle Royal”, Making Literature Matter, 1953, Pages 939-943.
  2. Ellison, Ralph (b). Invisible man. New York, NY: Modern Library, 1994.
  3. Ellison, Ralph (c). Shadow and Act. New York, NY: Vintage International, 1995.
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