“Battle Royal” – Ralph Ellison 1. Comment on the significance of the circus

“Battle Royal” – Ralph Ellison
1. Comment on the significance of the circus imagery as used in the story. Give examples.
2. In “Battle Royal”, animal imagery is used very often. Identify the references to animals in the story (for example, “lion”, “baboon”, “bird”, “panda”, “cottonmouth”, “wolf”, “crab”, “rat”…) and discuss how they contribute to the story.
3. Why do you think there is always an emphasis on “blindness” in the story? Provide examples.
4. What could be the significance of the smoky atmosphere in the hall where the battle royal takes place?
5. How does Ellison’s story challenge the respectability of the white Southern male?
6. At the end of the story, the narrator dreams that he is at a circus with his grandfather: Why does the grandfather refuse to laugh at the clowns?
7. Comment on the following quote from the story: “To Whom It May Concern… Keep This Nigger-Boy Running”.
8. What is the significance of the grandfather’s dying speech? Why does he call himself a traitor and a spy in the enemy’s country?
9. What is Ellison’s reason for creating a dreamlike, surreal atmosphere in the protagonist’s mind?.
10. What is the significance of Booker T. Washington in the story?
11. What is the symbolic value of the battle royal?
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13. How does the story define the concept of “success”?
14. How does the story develop the theme of racial hatred
15. In what ways is the narrator naïve and trusting?
16. Why does the narrator really receive the scholarship?
17. Why do the white men display the naked blonde to the African American boys?
18. Characterize the narrator’s grandfather. What is his role in the narrative?
19. The story is told from the first person point of view. With forceful detail and lyrical immediacy, he narrator conveys numerous details that render the inhuman and psychologically violent treatment that he and other boys are receiving at the hands of the “benefactors.” But the narrator does not become angry. Why?
20. How does the fight operate as a central symbol? What does it symbolize?
Once Upon a Time” : Nadine Gortimer – South Africa
1. Describe the suburb where this family lives
2. Characterize the husband
3. Characterize the wife
4. The family members would not perceive themselves as being overtly racist. Find evidence to the contrary.
5. What symbols do you find and how do they work?
6. How and why does the family become increasingly isolated from the outside world
7. What is Gortimer’s theme here? That is, what is the central idea she is developing or the point she is making in this story.
7. Apply the story’s content and theme to Apartheid.
8. What is the ultimate effect of racism in this story?
9. Apply the story’s theme to other international problems- particularly the use of fences with razor blades.

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