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The Contender

Robert Lipsyte

Character Analysis Major

Major is the antagonist of the novel. He represents the cynical, repressive, manipulative side of Harlem that Alfred initially fights to escape and ultimately learns to overcome. Leader of the gang that hangs out at the basement clubroom, Major would like to bring everyone down to his level or, preferably, just below him. He first tries to intimidate Alfred. When Alfred finally stands up to him, Major tries to befriend the novel's protagonist. He uses Alfred's best friend, James, as bait in an attempt to lure Alfred into a life of drugs, alcohol, and despair — a life in which the choices are few and Major is boss. Major is dangerous because he tempts Alfred to give up the way James has. Alfred succeeds when he can stand up to Major and find a life more rewarding than hanging out on street corners or in the clubroom.