The Battle Royal scene from Invisible Man

By Howard Rambsy II

The Battle Royal scene from Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952) remains one of the most popular, frequently referenced scenes in African American literature. Ellison’s composition, initially published as a short story “Invisible Man” in 1947, was later retitled “Battle Royal.” The story later appeared as part of Ellison’s famous novel.  

The most memorable and frequently cited scene from the story depicts a group of black boys who are forced to fight each other blind folded for the entertainment of a group of powerful white men in a small town. The image of black boys blindly pitted against each for the pleasure of white people resonates as a powerful metaphor for how white people sometimes incline African Americans to harm themselves for the benefit of others.