Free Study Guide for The Contender by Robert Lipsyte Free BookNotes|
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THE CONTENDER BY ROBERT LIPSYTE STUDY GUIDE
Circumstances help to shape Alfredís identity and make him determined; but his kindness and generosity are basic characteristics that he has possessed from the beginning. He gives up boxing because he does not want to hurt another human being. In addition, part of his reason for wanting to be successful is that he hopes to
enough money to provide comforts to his aunt and luxuries to his nieces. He also
wants to help James and seizes the opportunity to turn him around when he finds
him hiding in the cave. By the novelís end, Alfred has proven that he is a mature
and selfless young man who is destined to have a bright future.
After Alfred is orphaned at a young age,
Aunt Pearl takes him in and becomes the stabilizing factor in his life. Since
Pearl is a moral and religious woman, she becomes a visible and questioning conscience
for her nephew. At the end of each day, Alfred returns back home to his aunt and
answers to her. Her concern and worry over him help Alfred to accept responsibility
and resist temptation. Aunt Pearl is also sensitive. She is often able to read
Alfredís mind and to understand his dilemmas before he explains them. She is anxious
about his welfare and cautions him about making the right decisions for the future.
She also cares for him lovingly and gently, especially when he needs a tender
touch. During the book, Aunt Pearl talks to Alfred about her past, which was filled
with difficulties; but she never complains or seems unhappy. Instead, she tries
to be upbeat for Alfred and her daughters so they will have a sense of happiness
and security. Her sacrifices for the children prove that she is a kind, loving,
and intelligent mother and aunt.
Donatelli, the manager of the gym, is a significant, positive influence in Alfredís life. At a stage, when Alfred is unsure of his image and surrounded by unruly elements, Donatelli becomes his savior, encouraging the boy to think positively and act decisively to establish his identity in a harsh world. He boosts Alfredís confidence by hinting about his potential as a boxer and creates the right atmosphere for him to pursue his ambition with dedication. As a hard taskmaster and strict disciplinarian, Donatelli demands that Alfred work with diligence and determination. As a result, Alfred respects him greatly.
Although Donatelli sometimes appears to be stern, it is clear he has a tender heart.
He is greatly concerned about the welfare of his boxing students and helps them to develop strength to fight successfully against any opponent in the ring. Before a match, he makes certain that his students are rested, properly fed, and encouraged.
the match, Donatelli expects his students to do their best; however, if they any
of them become injured, he feels distressed and tries to halt the match to stop
them from getting more seriously wounded. In summary, Donatelli is a good, considerate,
and disciplined trainer, who loves his students and tries to protect them from
known by all as Spoon, is the best example in the novel of goodness and practical
sense rolled in one person. He is educated, refined, humble and generous. Also,
he is a good sportsman. Since he is a former champion in boxing, he visits Donatelliís
gym to train newcomers and attends their competitions to keep in touch with the
game. He is very appreciative of his own boxing training, for he feels it gave
him confidence to face the world and to use his abilities to his best advantage.
After leaving the ring, Spoon pursued a college degree and became a teacher. He
also married a charming woman, who is also a teacher. They live in a comfortable
home in Manhattan, which they generously share with the boxing trainees. Alfred
is taken to Spoonís apartment before each of his boxing matches. There he relaxes
and is fed a large, delicious meal. Alfred learns to truly appreciate and respect
Spoon. He is especially impressed with Spoon when he encourages him to go to night
school and when he talks to him about James needing to go to a rehabilitation
center. By the end of the novel, Bill Witherspoon has clearly shown that he is
a good man, loving husband, and generous friend.
Although James is not actually seen often in the novel,
the reader learns a great deal about him from the thoughts and actions of Alfred
and from what other people say about him. James is weak in character, especially
in comparison to Alfred. He chooses to befriend Major, to take drugs, and to become
involved in crime. Because he is not an experienced criminal, he is easily caught
by the police when he tries to rob the Epsteins and is sent to jail. When he is
released, he continues to run with Major and be involved in illegal activities.
In spite of Jamesí weaknesses, Alfred always thinks of him as a friend and wants
to help him, for they had been childhood companions, sharing their joys and sorrows.
They had studied in the same school, shared similar interests, and confided their
hopes and fears to each other in their secret cave. As a result, Alfred is determined
to help his friend. When he finds him hiding in the cave after the second robbery,
Alfred convinces James that he needs to turn his life around by checking into
the rehabilitation center. He promises to help and stand by his friend along the
way. The reader feels that James will improve and get his life back together,
largely because of the efforts and constant friendship of Alfred.
In the novel, Major is developed as the classic
bad guy or villain. Called a "devil in disguise," Major is responsible
for leading James down a path of destruction and tempting Alfred on several occasions.
Major lives a life of crime. He is the one who plans the robberies at the Epsteins
and who steals a car. He also gets Alfred drunk at a party and causes James to
start taking drugs. Major is a totally flat character, for no where in the book
does he display a redeeming characteristic or try to improve himself or his behavior.
As a result, he becomes a stock character who symbolizes evil.
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. 09 May 2017