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Free Study Guide for The Contender by Robert Lipsyte Free BookNotes

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THE CONTENDER - FREE CHAPTER SUMMARY / LITERARY CRITICISM

CHAPTER 15

Summary

At home, Alfred nurses his wounds. Aunt Pearl is concerned over his condition and offers him a glass of milk. Alfred expects her to ask him many questions, but she remains silent. She does, however, admit that she knew about his match, for the Epsteins had told her about it. She also tells him that she wants him to pursue his field of his interest, for she regrets that she did not pursue a singing career for herself. Pearl does, however, warn Alfred to be careful.

Pearl explains how her mother had stopped her from becoming a singer, for she considered it a disreputable career. In retaliation, Pearl got married at a young age even though her mother warned against it. Her husband proved himself to be a good and responsible man, but fate snatched him away from her. She was widowed young and left to take care of her three children. Aunt Pearl breaks down while telling the story, and Alfred consoles her.

Notes

This chapter shifts the pace and tone of the story. Previously, the book has been filled with action and suspense, but this chapter is slower and filled with soft emotion. Seeing the wounds of her nephew, Pearl is upset, but she encourages him to pursue his dream even though she is anxious about his safety. She then explains how she wanted to be a singer since she had a good voice, but her mother forbid it. Out of spite, she married at a young age and had three daughters. When her husband died early, she was left to raise her three girls alone. Alfred is saddened when he learns about Pearl’s disappointments in life, but her courage inspires him.


CHAPTER 16

Summary

Alfred returns to the boxing ring to fight a second match. This time his opponent is Griffin, a man who is light in weight and swift in his movements. Griffin is so fast that he takes Alfred by surprise, injuring him in the first round. Donatelli advises Alfred to use both of his hands against his opponent. Although Alfred remembers Donatelli’s words, he is unable to execute them effectively. Even though he fares better in the second round, Alfred still falls short of Griffin’s ability. At the end of the round he has received more injuries. In the last round, Alfred notices that Griffin is losing his resistance and concentration. He takes advantage of his opponent’s weaknesses, hitting him hard on the chest and jaws. Griffin is unable to fight back and collapses on the floor. When Griffin does not get up, Alfred is declared the winner by a knockout.


Although the crowd applauds his victory, Alfred feels disillusioned. He is upset about seriously injuring Griffin and hates the crowd for cheering him for wounding his rival.

On the way home, Alfred keeps thinking about Griffin in his state of helplessness. After he goes to bed, he sleeps restlessly. When he wakes in the morning, he goes out to jog but intentionally avoids the policemen. At work, Lou Epstein compliments him for his two consecutive wins, but Alfred cannot muster any joy. Epstein believes Alfred is simply tired and sends him home to rest. Alfred, however, does not immediately go home but wanders aimlessly and restlessly. When he runs into Lynn and Harold, they ask him to join the recreation club and help the children who come there, but Alfred refuses to give them an answer. As he walks towards home, he thinks about the offer and imagines James and himself working with the needy children.

Notes

After winning his second match, Alfred loses his enthusiasm for boxing and becoming a champion. When he sees Griffin, his opponent, lying in a wounded and helpless state on the floor, Alfred feels miserable about having hurt him. He also resents the crowd for cheering him for injuring his rival. This match will become a turning point in his life, for it changes Alfred’s outlook about his future.

After this second victory, Alfred has trouble sleeping. When he goes out to jog the next morning, he intentionally avoids the policemen, not wanting to have a discussion with them. When he goes to work and receives a compliment on his second victory from Epstein, Alfred shows no enthusiasm. Epstein, misreading Alfred’s mood, believes he is simply tired and sends him home to rest. Alfred, however, does not head towards home but wanders aimlessly. When he encounters two friends, they encourage Alfred to join the recreation club and help some of the needy youngsters there. Although he does not give them an answer, he imagines James and himself working with the children, indicating that Alfred has an interest in helping others. By his very nature, Alfred is a helper rather than a fighter. It is not surprising then that the thought of educating children is more appealing to him than hurting his opponent in the ring.

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