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A Look At “King Of The Game” For All Fans Of Bingo

Ralph Ellison’s “King of the Bingo Game” is both powerful and thought-provoking in equal measure. The short story brings to life the struggles an African American endures during the Great Depression, with the main character’s resilience, especially in the face of much adversity, coming to the fore, with bingo, arguably surprisingly, being part of the journey.

Whether today’s fans of the game will fully appreciate the writing, considering that many now mainly enjoy bingo games online, but bingo symbolises a lot in King of the Game, with the initial aim in the story set in the 1930s being that the nameless protagonist hopes to win the grand prize in a charity game which amounts to $36. He believes that winning the prize will end his financial despair, but it also represents his desire to regain his identity after being marginalised for so long.

As the game plays, the dramatic highs and lows experienced when the numbers are called also do a fantastic job of reflecting the inner turmoil the protagonist feels, like so many others, who it appears as though the American Dream has cast to the side. With each call, the number either moves him closer to his struggles ending or further towards despair, with everything very much on a knife edge.

In reality, the game of bingo acts as a metaphor in Ralph Ellison’s work. The theme of identity is the narrative, but while the protagonist wants to become the “King of the game” because he believes it will see him break free from all the racial prejudice and injustices, he comes to realise that freedom, especially in the society he lives in is nothing more than an illusion.

But, even though everything seems to be stacked against him, the protagonist clings to hope throughout while playing the game, and you could say it’s because it’s a means of survival. He may be playing a game where the odds aren’t in his favour, but the thought of winning and the belief that it’s possible to take away the grand prize of $36 gives him hope. And in turn, it shows the power of the human spirit and resilience.

The story by Ralph Ellison may be set in the 1930s during the era of the Great Depression, but the true meaning of what’s written is still relevant today. There are still marginalised communities, and while there is desperation and a desire to gain an identity, there is also hope too. The protagonist’s journey in “King of the Game” reflects the journey of so many others.

The story’s narrative is genuinely poignant, and it’s applicable today. Regardless of an individual’s colour or creed, their aspirations should be encouraged and their dignity upheld and respected. And while hope is important, it should never be an illusion. Instead, it should be a reality and something tangible for everyone because that’s when true equality will be proven to exist.


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