Identity and Epiphany in Life

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Essentially, questions of identity and perception are critical in any individual's life because they define the path one takes in life. Furthermore, the two principles have a significant impact on the standards and laws that control a specific culture. Ralph Ellison's short story "Battle Royal" is a satirical examination of racial injustice and how it affects the black community in daily life. "A & P," by John Updike, on the other hand, is a fixture in American life as seen from the eyes of a 19-year-old man who is lost and struggling to live in a culture. This essay compares and contrasts these two stories; this paper will look in-depth at the literal elements applied in both pieces such as setting, the narrative point of view among other aspects. Additionally, it will analyze the similarities between "Battle Royal" and "A&P."


In "A&P," the story is a first-person narration done by a 19-year-old man named Sammy; he is a cashier working at the grocery stories known as the A&P. As such, although the narrator is telling the truth from his perspective, he is unreliable considering his view is limited. However, it is of the essence to recognize that Sammy is willing to think differently than the people around him, which represent a major growth on his part. Similarly, in "Battle Royal," the narration is in the first person by the invisible man, an aspect that enables him to address the reader directly. Additionally, the speaker, an African American can convey his confusion through a direct and honest tone. Further, the narrator's naivety is illustrated by his lack of reaction to inhumane treatment from his benefactors. Evidently, these two stories have been narrated in the first person, where the reader understands them from the narrators’ perspectives, which makes it easy to connect with similar experiences.

“A&P” outlines Sammy’s coming to age; for instance, he decides to quit his job and stand against conventional morality. Also, this genre is meant to be realistic as everything happening to the narrator could happen to any individual. The narrator successfully ignores other's opinion and focuses on his sense of self, an aspect that wins him a scholarship award. In the same way, “Battle Royal” is an example of a coming-of-age story where the narrator grows up, and matures during the duration of the piece. In essence, epiphany is illustrated in “A&P” when he realizes that the world was going to be hard as he looks back through the big windows. On the contrary, “Battle Royal” displays deep understanding from the speaker through his endurance and as he progresses toward the ultimately triumphant scholarship award.


Evidently, the narrator in “Battle Royal” is born and raised in the South, where he later moves to New York City. Moreover, his race is the primary determinant of how he is treated by other individuals, including the higher-ups in the society. Ironically, the narrator survives and operates in a setting, which plays a significant role in uncovering the full range of his individuality. On the other hand, “A&P” is set in the 2000s. Sammy, the narrator the A&P he works for represents conformity in his community; store patrons were just followers lacking independent thinking. Therefore, the girls and Sammy represent a rebellion against the conformist tendencies; according to the author, during those times, such people were willing to quit their jobs, and risk embarrassment in efforts to stand for individual freedom.

October 20, 2022


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