For this assignment, you will be analyzing two short stories, “Battle Royal” (which is the first chapter in Ralph Ellison’s novel, Invisible Man) and “The Birthmark.” As you read, reflect on the ways each depicts characters that are deemed socially unacceptable because of their outward appearances.
Write a comparison/contrast essay of 1000 words or more discussing the questions below. Remember to begin your paper with an engaging introduction and clear thesis statement, of your develop each point in the body paper using examples and quotes from the stories, and conclude your paper with a restatement of your thesis and closing remarks. Also, be sure to maintain your credibility by including in-text citations and a reference list correctly formatted in APA style.
1.Setting: Describe the settings of both pieces and identify how the eras in which they take place—with their distinct societal attitudes and customs—affect the main characters? Battle Royal The story speaks to the futility of blacks trying to get ahead in the white-man’s world of the 1950′s.
◦“Battle Royal:” Discuss the young man and his grandfather.
Why do we never learn the young man’s name?
What do the grandfather’s dying words reveal about him? His grandfather really meant to take all you can from them and do not give them a reason to hate you.
◦“The Birthmark:” Describe the main characters: Aylmer, Georgiana and Aminadab. What is important to each?
3.Point of View: In which point of view (first- or third-person) is each piece told?
Battle Royal is presented in the first person and The Birthmark is presented in the third person.
If the point of view in “Battle Royal” was changed, would it have made the story more effective, or less so? Less effective, but why?
◦“Battle Royal:” Analyze the deeper meaning of the following: the “battle royal” itself,
The naked blonde, The female stripper at the battle royal. As a woman, she represents another minority that becomes abused and cannot defend themselves. It is apparent how much she despises the men at the party by the “terror and disgust in her eyes” at the men’s behavior, but she still does not speak out once during the abuse. Like the African American men at the dinner, she too was confined and used as a puppet for entertainment as opposed to being treated as an equal.
And the young man’s dream at the end of the story
◦“The Birthmark:” What does Georgiana’s birthmark signify,
First to her and
Then to Aylmer?
What does alchemy represent in the story?
5.Themes: What are the main themes/messages of each piece?
What, in other words, do you think the authors, Ralph Ellison and Nathaniel Hawthorne, are trying to communicate about life and human nature in their respective stories?
6.Fear: What role does fear play in both pieces?
7.Discrimination: Both stories address physical appearance, specifically one’s skin, and the way people may discriminate against others because of external characteristics they deem inferior. Compare and contrast how discrimination and prejudice are presented
in “Battle Royal”
and “The Birthmark.”
8.Final Thoughts: Author Tim O’Brien wrote, "That's what fiction is for. It's for getting at the truth when the truth isn't sufficient for the truth." Talk about how literature might give us “truer” insights into the human experience by appealing to our senses, emotions and empathy.
Describe a situation in which you or someone you know may have been discriminated against because of appearance, gender, race or another attribute. What did the experience teach you?
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