The Contender

A Book Report by Hozan Safar

Author Information

    Robert Michael Lipsyte is an American sports journalist and author and former Ombudsman for ESPN. He is a member of the Board of Contributors for USA Today's Forum Page, part of the newspaper's Opinion section. Wikipedia

    Born: January 16, 1938 (age 77), Queens, New York City, NY

    Education: Columbia University

    Home town: New York City

    Children: Sam Lipsyte

    Parents: Sidney I. Lipsyte, Fanny Finston Lipsyte

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Much of Alfred and James' dreaming is shared at a secret cave that James discovered in the park as a young boy while rock hunting.

Protagonist, and antagonist

Protagonist:Alfred Brooks is the protagonist of the novel. He is intelligent, talented and hardworking. He desires to be successful in life and, therefore, stays away from young criminals, like Major. During the novel, he joins Donatello gym and trains to become a boxer.

Antagonist:The struggle of growing up and making the right decisions is Alfred’s major antagonist. Life is made more difficult for him by Major, who tries to tempt black youth into illegal activities. Although Major persuades James to permanently join him, Alfred resists his temptations after a couple of outings. When Major is rejected, he tries to harm Alfred.

Main Conflict

Alfred struggle to commit to something as difficult as boxing; Alfred's attempt to salvage a sense of self worth.

the climax occurs when Alfred decides who he is and what he wants in life. Although he has fought successfully in two matches, he decides he does not want to pursue a boxing career, for he does not like inflicting injuries on another human being. In spite of his hard work and victories in the ring, Alfred tells Donatello that he will only fight in one more final match. Donatello believes that Alfred has made the right decision, for he is lacking the "killer instinct" that a champion boxer needs to possess.

Conflict resolve

The story ends in comedy. Alfred devotes himself to his training and proves himself to be a contender in the ring by winning two matches. He discovers, however, that he does not want to be a boxer and inflict pain and injury on other human beings. As a result, he fights one final match and then permanently resigns from the boxing ring in order to pursue his education, to work with children at the recreation center, and to help his friend James overcome his problems. Lipsyte gives every indication that Alfred’s dedication and determination will make him a success in life, just like he was a success in the ring.


    The Contender (Lipsyte novel) The Contender is the debut novel by American author and sports journalist Robert Lipsyte. It was published in 1967. The book's plot centers on a black seventeen-year-old man named Alfred Brooks, a high school dropout living with Aunt Pearl and her three daughters in Harlem, New York City.


The predominant mood of the novel is serious and hopeful as it traces the physical and mental development of Alfred Brooks from an uncertain youth to a confident young man.


The Contender is a coming-of-age novel whose protagonist, a black seventeen-year-old high school dropout named Alfred Brooks, lives with his Aunt Pearl and her three daughters in Harlem, a predominantly African American neighborhood in Manhattan, New York City, in the mid-1960s. Alfred's father deserted the family when Alfred was ten years old; his mother died when he was thirteen. On both occasions, his best friend, James, stood by him.

Now, Alfred and James seem headed in opposite directions. One Friday night in June, James breaks into Epsteins' grocery with members of a street gang led by the novel's antagonist, a bully named Major. Alfred is a clerk at the store and inadvertently reveals that there may be money in the cash register on a Friday night; he forgets to tell James about the new alarm system recently installed. Only James is arrested; he is put on probation. Meanwhile, Alfred begins training at Mr. Donatelli's Gym. A wise mentor, Donatelli insists that no one is promised anything, everyone is treated equally, and a man finishes what he begins. The journey, the climb, is more important to Donatelli than the highest goal. Striving is key. Alfred should try to become a contender and let the championships of life come if they will, according to Donatelli.

Alfred begins training at the gym and progresses well. As a spectator, he attends a fight night at Madison Square Garden. When challenged later that evening, he is able to stand up to Major, leader of the street gang. However, Alfred's training is long and sometimes tedious. Alfred cannot yet trust himself; he is too susceptible to the opinions of others. Alfred's employers, the Epsteins, seem to doubt him after the burglary. Eventually, Alfred weakens. He attends a party at the gang's clubroom, indulges in alcohol and marijuana, and passes out. Alfred sees James at the clubroom and discovers that he has become addicted to heroin. Both boys seem lost.


never doubt your self, be who you want to be, whether your not sure that u can achieve it, just go for it.


I would rate this book 3 and a half since its a okay book and because like it didn't attract my attention when i read it, but it was decent, and it was interesting at the beginning, but toward the middle, and end it just lost me.