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The Contender

Robert Lipsyte

Chapters 4–6

Chapters 1–3

Chapters 4–6, page 2

page 1 of 2
Summary

Chapter 4

The next morning on the way to church, Alfred passes a nationalist rally where people are getting riled up over the issue of black rights. The speaker tries to get Alfred involved, and when Alfred keeps going someone calls him a "[h]appy little darky." During the sermon at church, he notices that Major and Hollis are standing in the doorway of the church. By the time Alfred leaves, Major and Hollis are gone.

After church they ride the bus out to Jamaica, to Alfred's aunt and uncle, Dorothy and Wilson's house. During dinner, Wilson asks Alfred if there is much opportunity for advancement at the store, saying that the world is "opening up for colored people." Wilson continues to question him about education and trades, and Alfred tunes it out. Alfred's cousin, Jeff, is in college and is always winning prizes. Compared to Jeff, he had not accomplished much. That night Alfred thinks of what it means to advance and thinks of Mr. Donatelli and trying to become a contender.

Chapter 5

The next morning Alfred wakes up early to run in the park. He is stopped by two cops who want to know what he is doing, and he explains he is training to be a boxer. The cops eventually let him go but not before making fun of him. When he gets home, Pearl wants to know where he was. Despite her pressing, he only tells her that he took a walk.

At work Mr. Epstein asks about James and whether Alfred knew James was going to try and break into the store. Epstein presses Alfred for information about the identity of the other boys who broke into the store, but Alfred does not say anything. The Epsteins treat Alfred suspiciously, and he is no longer allowed to do errands such as taking money to the bank for deposit. As he is sweeping he sees the alarm wires, and it occurs to him that he could yank them out and come back next Friday to rob the store, though not entertaining the thought for long. Before Alfred leaves work, Henry comes by and reminds him to go to the gym.

Chapter 6

Alfred returns to the gym. It is full of people boxing each other and punching bags. He notices a sign on the wall that says it costs $2 for amateurs, but Dr. Corey, the dentist from downstairs who fits all the fighters with mouth guards, tells him that paying is not important. Dr. Corey starts Alfred on some sit-ups, and some boys in the gym show him how to do them right—painfully slowly, all the way up and back down. Alfred does push-ups too.

One of the fighters demands that Bud, Mr. Donatelli's assistant, tape his hands. Bud tells the boxer to do it himself, and the two launch into a nasty verbal confrontation with the boxer screaming at Bud, telling him that Bud must do whatever he says. Eventually, the boxer slugs at Bud, and Bud effortlessly blocks the punch and delivers one of his own. After the confrontation, Bud introduces himself to Alfred and says that Mr. Donatelli has a ticket for Alfred to see a real fight.

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