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Free Online Study Guide-The Contender by Robert Lipsyte-Book Summary/BookNotes
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CHAPTERS 11 - 12


When Alfred arrives at the club where the party is being held, he is welcomed by Major, who offers him an alcoholic beverage. When Alfred refuses the offer, Major insists and talks him into trying an orange with vodka. The drink immediately goes to Alfredís head, making him feel dizzy. Alfred befriends a girl named Arlene. After he dances with her, she cajoles him into smoking. He is unaware that the cigarette contains marijuana, and he wonders why his legs feel so unsteady. Just before Alfred leaves, he spies James for the first time and is shocked to see him taking drugs. He tries to stop his friend, but James ignores his advice.

By the time Alfred reaches home, he is in a state of semi- consciousness. He quickly falls asleep and does not wake up until late the next evening when Aunt Pearl telephones to check on him. He barely listens to her and immediately falls asleep again. When he finally wakes up on Sunday morning, it is already bright outside. Alfred makes himself a strong cup of coffee in an effort to clear his head.

Major calls to tell Alfred that he is coming to pick him up to take him to Coney Island, the famous amusement park. When Major and Hollis arrive, Alfred is in no mood to go, but Hollis drags him to the stolen car, and they speed away. As Major approaches Coney Island, he sees a policeman and panics. He races away and then abandons the car at a signal. Alfred manages to get away from the stolen car before the police arrive, but when he reaches home, he is miserable. Major telephones him to warn him against answering any questions for the police.

Alfred sleeps for the rest of the day and through the night. When he wakes, he goes to work at the Epsteins, but he looks and feels dispirited. After work, he decides he will not go to the gym. By the next evening, he has convinced himself that he will never become a boxer. He goes to the gym to collect his things and to bid goodbye to Donatelli. When Donatelli appears unconcerned about Alfredís departure from the gym, Alfred asks him whether he has a chance of becoming a champion. When Donatelli encourages him, Alfred decides to continue his work at the gym.


Alfred succumbs to the temptations of Major, the devil in disguise. When Major invites him to a party where James will be in attendance, Alfred accepts, for he wants to see his old friend. At the Friday night party, he allows himself to be persuaded to take a drink of vodka, which goes to his head and makes him feel unsteady and inebriated. He then allows Arlene to talk him into smoking a cigarette that contains marijuana. By the time he returns home, he is in a state of semi-consciousness and sleeps for the next day and a half, finally getting out of bed on Sunday morning. When Major calls to say he is coming to take Alfred to Coney Island, Alfred tries to protest, but allows himself to be dragged by Major and Hollis into a stolen car. When the police spy the vehicle, the boys abandon it. Although he escapes without being caught, Alfred feels miserable and disgusted about what he has done. He decides he is unworthy of returning to Donatelliís gym or pursuing his goal. His six weeks of hard work now means nothing to him since he sees himself as a failure.

It is ironic that every time Alfred tries to reach out to James, it causes him trouble. In the beginning of the novel, his desire to protect James from being caught by the alarm during the burglary leads Alfred to the Epsteins to view his friend being arrested; Alfred is then questioned by his employers about the burglary and his relationship with James. In this chapter, Alfred accepts Majorís invitation to a party, for he wants to see his old friend James. He is shocked and disappointed, however, when he sees James taking drugs and realizes that he no longer is interested in Alfredís friendship. Alfred is so dejected over his own unacceptable behavior and the loss of Jamesí friendship that he looses his will to work hard and become a successful boxer.

At the end of chapter 12, Donatelli sets Alfred on the right path once again. Down on himself, Alfred goes to the gym to collect his belongings and to say good-bye to Donatelli. When Alfred tells the trainer that he no longer believes he can be a successful boxer and is quitting his training, Donatelli encourages him to keep working. As a result, he becomes Alfredís savior, convincing him to pursue his goal and preventing him from succumbing to a life of crime with James and Major.

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