Summary and Analysis
When Alfred accompanies Henry to that night's fights at the Garden, he enters yet another new world with its attendant revelations on boxing and life. Outside the building is a vast array of fight fans ranging from seedy men with smashed-in faces to high-rolling Harlem gamblers in dinner jackets. Inside is a scene that is both threatening and exciting.
Mr. Donatelli's promising prospect, Willie Streeter, is to meet Junius Becker in the featured event. Alfred is very impressed with Willie, who looks cool and confident. Jelly Belly, who has joined Alfred and Henry, is more skeptical, noting that Willie is Willie and will likely fight the fight "his way" despite Mr. Donatelli's instructions. Alfred briefly thinks of James and the fun they once had pretending that they would be professional wrestlers.
The fight is surprisingly slow until the middle rounds when the two combatants inadvertently smash heads. Becker briefly goes to a knee, but it is Willie who has a serious cut on the outside corner of his left eye. Willie seems to quit fighting, and Becker takes the offensive. Donatelli asks the referee to stop the fight, granting Becker a victory. In the locker room, the three friends meet Bill Witherspoon, a former fighter and schoolteacher, who gives Alfred and Henry a ride home. On the stoop of Alfred's building, Major, Hollis, and Sonny are waiting for him.
The opening paragraph of Chapter 7 is an excellent example of Lipsyte's use of dynamic imagery to set the tone and describe a scene. In addition to the variety of people in the crowd of hundreds gathered around the entrance to the Garden, Alfred is intrigued by the mixed smells of perfume, mustard, and beer.
Inside the Garden, Alfred at first feels threatened because everyone seems to be angry. Alfred thinks they are angry with him. As he often does, Lipsyte makes effective use of repetition as the usher scowls, the program seller scowls, the ticket taker scowls, and even the snack stand attendant scowls. Soon, however, Alfred notices that they scowl at everyone.
Donatelli asks the referee to stop the fight not because Willie's cut is so bad but because Willie has stopped fighting. Donatelli realizes that Willie does not have the heart to be a top fighter and will only be injured and embarrassed if the fight goes on, foreshadowing later events in Alfred's coming of age.
In contrast to Willie is Bill Witherspoon, affectionately know as "Spoon." Spoon had been a very good fighter, once rated the "Number Seven light-heavyweight contender." Good as Spoon was, he was getting beaten too hard. Although he was still winning, Mr. Donatelli one day said to him, "Billy, I think it's time." Donatelli urged Spoon to return to college, and Spoon is now "Mr. Witherspoon," a successful teacher. Spoon's experience, too, foreshadows later events in Alfred's journey.
The night has been rewarding for Alfred, and he is in fine spirits as he walks home from Henry's house. Lipsyte, though, is far from ready to let Alfred, or the reader, off the hook.
As Alfred approaches his own front stoop, dreaming of being a champion, Alfred spots three figures standing in wait. They are his adversaries: Hollis, Sonny, and Major.
marquee a rooflike structure or awning projecting over an entrance, as to a theater; here, the marquee at Madison Square Garden, advertising the fights.
attaché cases flat, rectangular cases, as for carrying documents; briefcases; here, referring to the cases being carried by businessmen going to the fight.
showed some dog did not give his best effort; a derisive term.