The Narrator Essay Research Paper The narrator

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The Narrator Essay, Research Paper The narrator’s grandparents were freed slaves who believed they were separate but equal after the Civil War. His grandfather lived a meek and quiet life after being freed. However, on his deathbed, he tells the narrator’s father that the lives of black Americans are a ‘war’ and that he himself feels like a traitor. He counsels the narrator’s father to undermine the whites with ‘yeses’ and ‘grins.’ He advises his family to ‘agree ‘em to death and destruction.’ His grandfather’s dying words haunt the narrator. He lives meekly, like his grandfather. Like him, the narrator receives praise from the white members of his town, but feels troubled that his grandfather branded such meekness as treachery. On his graduation

day, he delivers a speech preaching humility and submission as the key to the advancement of black Americans. The speech is such a success that the town arranges to have him deliver it at a gathering of the community’s leading white citizens. He arrives and is told to take part in the ‘battle royal’ that figures as part of the evening’s entertainment. The narrator and some of his classmates don boxing gloves and enter the ring. A naked, blond, white woman with an American flag painted on her stomach parades about as the white men demand that they look at her. Afterwards, the white men blindfold the youths and order them to viciously pummel one another. The narrator is defeated in the last round. After they remove the blindfolds, the contestants are led to a rug covered

with coins and a few crumpled bills. They lunge for the money, only to discover that the rug is electrified. The white men attempt to force the victims to fall face forward onto the rug during the mad scramble. While the narrator gives his speech, they all laugh and ignore him as he quotes verbatim large sections of Booker T. Washington’s “Atlanta Exposition Address.” In the midst of the amused, drunken requests that he repeat the phrase ’social responsibility,’ the narrator accidentally says ’social equality.’ The white men angrily demand that he explain himself. He states that he made a mistake. He finishes to uproarious applause. They award him a calfskin briefcase. He is told to cherish it as a ‘badge of office’ because one day ‘it will be filled with

important papers that will shape the destiny’ of his people. He is overjoyed to find a scholarship to the state college for black youth inside. He does not even care when later he discovers that the gold coins from the electrified rug are worthless brass tokens. That night he has a dream of going to a circus with his grandfather who refuses to laugh at the clowns. He instructs the narrator to open the briefcase. Inside, the narrator finds an official envelope with a state seal. He opens it only to find another envelope that contains another envelope. The last one contains an engraved document reading: “To Whom It May Concern, Keep This Nigger-Boy Running.” The narrator awakes with his grandfather’s laughter ringing in his ears. Analysis The narrator’s grandfather

intensifies the theme of ambiguity. He confesses that he feels as though his meekness in the face of the South’s enduring racist structure makes him a traitor. It is unclear whom he feels he has betrayed: himself, his family, or his race. All his life, he had espoused faith in the Jim Crow structure of equality with segregation, but on his deathbed he rejects this faith. He advises his family to have two identities as a form of self-protection. On the outside they should embody the stereotypical ‘good slaves,’ behaving just as their former white masters wish, but they should never fully believe in this identity. On the inside, they should retain their bitterness and resentment against the imposed false identity. By following the grandfather’s model, they can refuse to