Idea of Battle and War in the Two Stories Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

War at Home in Ellison, War Abroad in O'Brien

The inhumanity of war is a common theme in literature, as brilliantly illustrated in Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried," a tale that functions as a short story but is actually an excerpt from his great novel about the Vietnam War Going after Cacciato. In O'Brien's story, several soldiers fighting in Vietnam are defined by the objects they carry in their pockets, such as photographs of loved ones, as well as their military gear and outfits. Yet the battles of individuals oppressed by society, such as African-Americans, may be equally, if not more, soul destroying, when conducted on the home front of America, on daily basis. This fact is evidenced by the evisceration of the spirit of the young African-American men in an excerpt from Ralph Ellison's seminal novel Invisible Man, entitled, "Battle Royal."

In "Battle Royal," the best and brightest young African-American men from the community where the unnamed narrator Ellison grew up and distinguished himself as a scholar in albeit a segregated system, are summoned to an exclusive White club. The ostensible excuse for the party is to celebrate their achievements. The real purpose of the meeting is to show the young men their inferior places in society. Eventually, the young men are encouraged, really forced to fight for dollar bills in what Ellison calls a "smoker," calling into resonance an illegal, backroom brawl rather than the celebratory scholarship dinner the young accomplished men expect to commend their achievements. (Ellison, 1954)

The young men engage in such a fistfight and wrestling brawl for the older white men's sport, at first reluctantly, then enthusiastically, despite the cruel purpose of being used as physical entertainment. They are bright minds, reduced to Black, strapping bodies in the eyes of over-privileged, overfed White men. The allure of money to these impoverished youths, longing to fulfill their dreams by going away to college, temporarily overtakes them, as well as fear of what will transpire if they do not comply. Their seduction on the heat of the battlefield into warring for dollars and obeying the orders of those higher than themselves on the social hierarchy is sexual as well. During…

Sources Used in Document:

Works Cited

Ellison, Ralph. "Battle Royal." From Literature An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Eight Edition. 2001.

O'Brien, Tim. "The Things They Carried." From Literature An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Eight Edition. 2001.

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