The Contender By Robert Lipsyte Summary and Analysis Chapter 16

Summary

November brings Alfred's second amateur fight, this one against a very fast and skillful boxer named Griffin. Donatelli wants Alfred to move in against Griffin and use combinations as he did when sparring against the speedy Angel. Alfred tries but runs into the red blur of Griffin's gloves. The first two rounds are all Griffin's, as he stings Alfred with what seems like hundreds of pitter-pat blows. Alfred needs a knockout.

In the third round, Griffin tires and begins to miss. Alfred hits him with a combination, the last punch a magnificent hook that leaves Griffin twitching and then lying dead-still on the canvas. Alfred wins the fight but feels alone and sick. He wonders if he has killed Griffin. He has not, but the image haunts him through the next day.

Analysis

In this chapter, Lipsyte provides the first indication that Alfred may not have the killer instinct necessary for a career as a professional boxer. Alfred is developing well and wins a fight that he could easily have lost, but he is more concerned that he might injure his opponent than he is with winning.

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." Alfred stands a chance only after Griffin wears himself out hitting Alfred's face. The months of training come into play as Alfred is able to call on reserves of fitness and skill, and a beauty of a hook, to deck the opponent. Instead of being elated, however, Alfred feels sick.

A brief appearance by Harold and Lynn, the young black nationalists, foreshadows an eventual development in the novel. They want Alfred to become involved in a recreation program for the youth of the community. They feel that the kids would respect a boxer. As Lipsyte reveals in the next chapter, the idea is to develop black leadership that the children can relate to and respect, because, too often, whites (to whom the kids have difficulty relating) have run such programs.

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