“Big Black Good Man” and “Battle Royal”

Words: 647
Topic: Literature
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Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to compare and contrast the methods of revealing racial themes in Richard Wright’s “Big Black Good Man” and Ralph Ellison’s “Battle Royal”. The goal is to show the differences between the demonstrations of racial prejudice in the short stories. The analysis of this issue can help to understand the nature of racial discrimination in the contemporary society of the authors.

Introduction

Big Black Good Man”, a story written by Richard Wright in 1958, and “Battle Royal”, written by Ralph Ellison in 1952, reveal the nature of racism and present contrasting examples of its different displays in the society.

Different methods of revealing the racial prejudice in the stories

In “Big Black Good Man”, Olaf is the character who has an inclination to judge people by their race. This inclination is concealed, as Olaf does not demonstrate certain visible features of a man who is intolerable to people of a different race in everyday life. He provides rooms for people of other races and do not offend or humiliate them.

In the same time, his negative reaction to the appearance of a big black man creates a contrast to his characteristic behavior. The impression he gets from communication with Jim has a racist ground. He is irritated by Jim’s appearance though he tries to keep himself calm and restrained. Such descriptions as “black beast” and “gorilla-like arms” reveal the real nature of Olaf’s treatment of black people.

Richard Wright contrasts Olaf’s outward behavior to his inner dialog. By presenting the controversy between Olaf’s superficial characteristics and his real attitudes, he demonstrates the nature of racist opinions among his contemporaries.

In “Battle Royal”, racial prejudice is demonstrated by presenting an image of people present at the smoke room during the fight. The author does not give names to characters, as his aim is to submit a collective set of features peculiar to people with racist attitudes. Most of the men watching the fight in the boxing ring are drunk and inadequate.

By giving such features to these men, Ralph Ellison shows the ignorant nature of those who have racist opinions. The men in the room do not take any attempts to hide their racial judgments and humiliate black boys in a disgusting way. They openly express their attitude to social equality. Ellison uses techniques of social realism to create a whole picture of racism popularity in the society (Wright, 2006, p. 30).

Richard Wright demonstrates the hidden nature of racial prejudice common among people who do not openly express racist opinions. On the contrary, Ralph Ellison gives an example of open racial prejudice common among white people. The analysis of the contrast between the ways of demonstration of racial discrimination in these stories helps to explore the prevalence of racism among the contemporaries of the authors.

Differences between the victims of racism in the stories

Wright portrays Jim as an object of racial prejudice. He gives him positive features, such as goodness and an ability to stand up for himself. This character does not evoke a feeling of pity among the readers. This “gentle giant” rather calls for respect (West, 2011, p.343). In the same time, Olaf is the one who appears to be pitiable and miserable. The author contrasts the main heroes’ modes of masculinity (Gilroy, 1993, p.179).

Ellison portrays the young black boy as a victim of racism. He is shown as a hero with both positive and negative features. While his attempts to struggle deserve respect, his perception of the situation demonstrates his naivety. He evokes compassion. Being humiliated, he does not even realize the awful nature of white men’s behavior.

Conclusion

Both authors make the readers explore distinctive specifics of racism. Each of them does it in a unique way. The analysis of differences between ways of depicting racism used by the authors helps to understand its nature.

References

Gilroy, P. (1993). The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

West, M. (2011). The purported and actual meanings of Richard Wright’s “Big Black Good Man”. Orbis Litterarum, 66(5), 343-360.

Wright, J. (2006). Shadowing Ralph Ellison. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi.