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Free Online Study Guide-The Contender by Robert Lipsyte-Book Summary/BookNotes
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1. Describe the Harlem of Alfred Brooks.

2. Contrast Alfred Brooks at the beginning of the novel to Alfred Brooks at the end of the novel.

3. Compare and contrast Alfred and James.

4. Why do the police apprehend James? Why does Alfred feel guilty about it?

5. What is Alfredís original reaction to Donatelliís gym? What is his original reaction to being in the boxing ring? What does this say about Alfred as a person?

6. Describe Aunt Pearl and compare/contrast her to Aunt Dorothy.

7. Describe Alfredís training and Donatelliís influence on it.

8. Alfred thinks about quitting the gym two different times in the book, for two very different reasons. Explain them both.

9. Why does Alfred worry about James throughout the novel? What does he finally do about it?

10. Contrast the influence that Henry and Spoon have on Alfred to the influence that Major has on him.

11. Why does Alfred decide he does not want to be a boxer? What does he want to do instead?

12. Is Alfred truly a contender? Support your answer with specific examples from the book.

13. Does the story end as a comedy or tragedy and why?

14. What is the major theme of the novel and how is it developed?


The study of literature is not like the study of math or science, or even history. While those disciplines are based largely upon fact, the study of literature is based upon interpretation and analysis. There are no clear-cut answers in literature, outside of the factual information about an author's life and the basic information about setting and characterization in a piece of literature. The rest is a highly subjective reading of what an author has written; each person brings a different set of values and a different background to the reading. As a result, no two people see the piece of literature in exactly the same light, and few critics agree on everything about a book or an author.

In this study guide, we have tried to give an objective literary analysis based upon the information actually found in the novel, book, or play. In the end, however, it is an individual interpretation, but one that we feel can be readily supported by the information that is presented in the guide. In your course of literature study, you or your professor/teacher may come up with a different interpretation of the mood or the theme or the conflict. Your interpretation, if it can be logically supported with information contained within the piece of literature, is just as correct as ours. So is the interpretation of your teacher or professor.

Literature is simply not a black or white situation; instead, there are many gray areas that are open to varying analyses. Your task is to come up with your own analysis that you can logically defend. Hopefully, these booknotes will help you to accomplish that goal.

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