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Copy of The Contender Robert Lipsyte
Transcript of Copy of The Contender Robert Lipsyte
The pain in his arms and legs seemed to have eased- P15
Setting and Foreshadowing
Foreshadowing - The 3 boys beat up Alfred,
which foreshadows the violence to come in
the rest of the book - P 13
Setting - Harlem, New York City in the 1960s
Generalization about Life Statement
Generalization from book - It's the climbing that makes
the man. Getting to the top is
the extra reward - P25
Generalization about Life - Follow your dreams. No matter
what gets in your way.
Author's Style and Mood
Author's Style - Emotional - "On his way to pray to Whitey's God, learn to Tom and turn the other cheek." - P27
Mood - Sad - "Can't you see that Alfred Brooks
is a happy little darky." P28
An African American who is overeager to win the approval of whites
The story takes place in Harlem, in New York City, during the late 1960s.
The 1960s were a time of great change in the United States as the Civil Rights movement was sweeping the nation.
Minorities, specifically blacks, were fighting for their rights. People such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X were some important black civil rights leaders during this time.
Harlem had a large population of African Americans who were very poor and had a low level of education. In the late 1960s, Harlem was a dangerous place full of crime, gangs, and drugs.
Many families in Harlem lived in small, often dirty, apartments. Lots of other people would live in these apartment complexes, making them feel cramped and crowded. The streets in Harlem were usually full of people and covered in garbage.
What does it mean to be a contender?
How can sports serve as inspiration?
What is a contender?
one who strives in opposition or against difficulties; struggle.
Predictions and Symbolization
Henry- A guardian angel, god father figure P41
Police Officers- Judgement, protectors P36
Your prediction at this point-
"The heavy bag was swinging wildly on its chain
as the boy with the enormous belly battered it with fists as big as cantaloupes." P43
"Other boys were jumping rope, jerking up and down like a mechanical jack-in-the-box...." P43
Mr. Donatelli's advice to Spoon:
"He told me he felt I should go back to college, full-time." P 61
"I was beginning to take too much punishment
I was getting hit regularly, but I was starting to get hit regularly." P 61
"Friday night, we gonna hit Epstein's again....
This time, you gonna help us." P63
"You got to Thursday to decide," screamed Major. P65
"He didn't stop until cars and buses
began to snarl and belch...." P66
"The birds were gossiping in the trees." P66
Stream of Consciousness
"Time ... time ... three minutes of shodowboxing, one minute of rest, three minutes of shadowboxing, one minute of rest ..." P 70
No Encouragement - "Forget it.
I would tell my own son the same
thing, especially my own son." P73
"Someone began passing a cigarette around,
and the way everyone dragged on it he knew it was marijuana." P82
Temptation - "He took longer pulls on the bottle, and deeper drags on the cigarette to keep the the warm, soft feeling in his head." P83
"Don't blame him, man, he didn't pour all that stuff into you at the party. You did that," he says to himself.
He wonders if he could have been any good, if he could have been a contender. Finally, Alfred is asking the right question.
In a stunning metaphor, Lipsyte speaks of time as if it were an evolving fighter:
"August, gasping for breath, melted into September."
Lipsyte uses this chapter to chart Alfred's progress, primarily in the ring but also with the Epsteins. Alfred learns by sparring with Angel, Denny, and Jose, each of whom presents a different challenge.
Moves Like Jagger
"You have nice moves, Alfred, very nice moves." P 101
Lipsyte's verbal imagery is impressive again, specifically his use of verbals. An ice ball in the gut symbolizes Alfred's pre-fight fear.
Just as the bout is to begin, the ice ball explodes, "spraying his entire body with freezing, paralyzing streams of water, weighing down his arms, deadening his legs, squeezing his heart." No wonder Rivera's first punch nails Alfred. Still, all the training pays off. Alfred bounces off the ropes jabbing. His legs are "steel springs"; his arms are "whips." Alfred has been superbly prepared, if he follows Donatelli's instructions.
Bill Witherspoon and his wife, Betty, serve as examples of life beyond the ring.
So, what is this book about?
The story revolves around Alfred, a poor black teenager, who struggles to make the right decisions in his life.
In the book, Alfred turns to becoming a boxer as a way to give his life some meaning. As we read, you will see how Alfred must come to terms with the difficult decisions in his life, many of which are decisions that every teenager must make.
Alfred must also sort out the people that he is exposed to--making sure that he is choosing to be around the right types of people.
A BIG QUESTION to keep in mind as we read:
What does it mean to be a contender?
"Do you feel the butterflies in your stomach?" P107 (Feeling nervous about something)
"Means you're on edge." P107 (Nervous and very aware)
This chapter shifts the pace and tone of the story
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.
Alfred is saddened when he learns about Pearl’s disappointments in life, but her courage inspires him.
"No star part, you understand, I'd be in the chorus." P125
Lipsyte's imagery is descriptive and apt. Griffin is no puncher, but the repeated blows feel like the stings of a hundred bees and leave Alfred swollen and dazed. Griffin's gloves are
"a red blur tapping away at Alfred's face, easy and steady as rain on a roof, pitter-pat, pitter-pat."
A brief appearance by Harold and Lynn, the young black nationalists,
an eventual development in the novel.
This chapter foreshadows the ending of the novel in two ways. First, we discover that Alfred has mixed feelings about boxing. He enjoys the workouts and the camaraderie at Donatelli's Gym, but the violence of the sport bothers him.
The new Alfred pleasantly surprises Jeff. He recalls an Alfred who "seemed to just drift along."
As Alfred continues to find himself, James is lost.
Foil: a foil is a character who contrasts with another character (usually the protagonist) in order to highlight particular qualities of the other character
James in the foil for Alfred
Donatelli tells Alfred frankly that he does not have the killer instinct necessary to succeed in the ring; further, Donatelli says he is not sure he would want Alfred to have it.
The scene reminds us of the caring way that Donatelli told Spoon to stop fighting and pursue other goals.
The mentor reminds his protégé of the first night that he climbed the stairs to the gym.
The staircase has become one of the most consistent metaphors in the novel
. It represents Alfred's climb toward maturity and his continuing effort. That first night, it was
a monstrous, terrifying barrier
. On his next visit, they were
"friendly old steps"
that he bounced up two at a time. When he wanted to quit, they were
; he had to stop twice to catch his breath. This trip, he walks with Donatelli for the first time,
slowly climbing the "sagging stairs.
Alfred insists that he must fight the one match left on his schedule to finish what he has begun. Donatelli warns him that Alfred's record probably will cause him to be matched against a fighter who is much better than his previous opponents. He could get hurt. Alfred reminds Donatelli of what the manager once said about being a contender. He can't quit until he has really tried.
Alfred understands that he can be a contender in life as well
as in the ring
, but he must first finish what he has started and prove to himself that he is a contender.
"Now you know, too."
In a magnificent simile, embodying the life of Alfred the street kid, Lipsyte describes the sound that Alfred numbly hears as he is knocked down a second time; it is a
"distant plop, like a stone splashing into the pool at the bottom of a sewer hole."
Alfred is seriously hurt.
His vision is blurred.
The crowd is insane.
He faces a bigger, better, meaner fighter.
He cannot win.
And he doesn't care.
He stands toe-to-toe with Hubbard.
He will not back off.
"gonna stand here all day and all night, . . . gonna climb, man, gonna keep climbing, you can't knock me out, nobody ever gonna knock me out, you wanna stop me you better kill me."
Alfred goes the distance.
that Alfred will always go the distance; it just won't be in a boxing ring.
Climax and Dramatic Tension
Events to Climax:
Talk with Henry
Arguing with Donatelli
Fighting with Hubbard
The book ends as it began, with Alfred in search of James.
As Donatelli put it in Chapter 3, Alfred is the man who is climbing, the man who knows he may never reach the top but is willing to "sweat and bleed to get up as high as his legs and his brains and his heart will take him."
Alfred has become a contender.
The first theme that we encounter in the novel is that the true importance of friendship is to be there for your friend but not to sink with him if he chooses to sink.
The novel takes its title from the most important theme, which Donatelli articulates best: "You have to start by wanting to be a contender." All of the other themes evolve from this one.
Donatelli is realistic enough to know that Alfred may quit, but he wants Alfred to realize that it is wrong to do so.
The journey is more important than the destination
Nothing is promised you. There are no guarantees in boxing or in life
You are responsible for the choices that you make.