Free Study Guide for The Contender by Robert Lipsyte Free BookNotes|
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THE CONTENDER BY ROBERT LIPSYTE - FREE STUDY GUIDE
As Alfred walks towards home after unsuccessfully looking for James, Major appears and curses him for not saying anything about the alarm. He then repeatedly strikes Alfred, sending him to the ground. Henry, who works at Donatelliís gym, and his father find Alfred in a daze and take him home. Henry invites Alfred to come and work out at the gym. Since Alfred would like to become a boxer, he decides to accept Henryís invitation. He goes to the gym and meets Donatelli, the manager and trainer. When Alfred tells him he wants to become a boxer, Donatelli warns him about how difficult the training will be.
Alfred begins his training with vigor and works hard to tone his muscles and build his strength. Every morning he jogs in the park, and every evening he works out at the gym. He is pleased with his progress and hopeful of his future. Alfred then allows Major to divert his attention from his training. When Major invites him to a party, Alfred accepts because he hopes to see James there. At the party, Major persuades him to drink vodka and Arlene gives him a cigarette with marijuana. By the time he spies James, Alfred is inebriated and unsteady; however, he is lucid enough to know that James is taking drugs, which upsets him greatly.
Disappointed in his behavior, Alfred stays in bed for almost two days. Then Major calls and insists that he go to Coney Island Amusement Park with him; he has stolen a car for the purpose. When Alfred resists, Major drags him to the car. As they near the park, they pass the police. Major panics and abandons the car. Alfred has no choice but to jump out and run. When he returns home, he is so ashamed of his behavior that he decides he is unworthy of continuing to train at Donatelliís gym. The next day he goes to collect his things; Donatelli, however, offers him words of encouragement, which cause Alfred to change his mind. He begins to train again with added enthusiasm. After six weeks, Alfred feels fit and thinks he is ready to face an opponent in the ring. Donatelli does not agree and says that Alfred has much more work to do before he is ready.
After months of additional training, Donatelli announces that Alfred is ready to box and schedules him for three matches. In the first match, Alfred is very nervous, for he is bothered by the bright lights, the jeers of the crowd, and the ability of his opponent. But Alfred is also determined and refuses to give up. At the end of the match, he is declared the winner. In his second match, Alfred seriously injures his opponent, knocking him out. As a result, he becomes disillusioned with boxing, for he does not like physically hurting another human being. He tells Donatelli he wants to resign from the ring after his third match. In this last match, Alfredís opponent is a strong contender, much heavier and more experienced than Alfred. He overpowers Alfred easily in the first two rounds, injuring him; but Alfred refuses to give up, fighting courageously and dealing blows to his rival whenever he gets the chance. Although he loses the match, Alfred feels good that he has fought the entire match, proving he is a true contender. He can retire from the ring with pride and devote himself to gaining a higher education and helping disadvantaged children at the recreation center.
When he returns home feeling happy and relieved, Aunt Pearl tells
Alfred that the police have come to the house looking for James, who has attempted
another robbery at the Epsteins. Alfred is very concerned about his friend and
goes out in search of him. He finds James hiding in the cave in the park, where
they use to hide as children. Although James asks Alfred for money, he refuses
his friend, for he does not want him to buy more drugs. Instead, he talks James
into entering a rehabilitation center in order to turn his life around. The novel
ends on a note of hope for James and fulfillment for Alfred.
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. 09 May 2017