Please wait while we process your payment
If you don't see it, please check your spam folder. Sometimes it can end up there.
Don’t have an account?
Create Your Account
Sign up for your FREE 7-day trial
Already have an account? Log in
Choose Your Plan
$4.99/month + tax
$24.99/year + tax
Save over 50% with a SparkNotes PLUS Annual Plan!
for a group?
Get Annual Plans at a discount when you buy 2 or more!
$18.74 /subscription + tax
Subtotal $37.48 + tax
on 2-49 accounts
on 50-99 accounts
Want 100 or more?
for a customized plan.
You'll be billed after your free trial ends.
7-Day Free Trial
Renews March 4, 2024
February 26, 2024
Discounts (applied to next billing)
This is not a valid promo code.
(one code per order)
Annual Plan - Group Discount
SparkNotes Plus subscription is $4.99/month or $24.99/year as selected above. The free trial period is the first 7 days of your subscription. TO CANCEL YOUR SUBSCRIPTION AND AVOID BEING CHARGED, YOU MUST CANCEL BEFORE THE END OF THE FREE TRIAL PERIOD. You may cancel your subscription on your Subscription and Billing page or contact Customer Support at email@example.com. Your subscription will continue automatically once the free trial period is over. Free trial is available to new customers only.
For the next 7 days, you'll have access to awesome PLUS stuff like AP English test prep, No Fear Shakespeare translations and audio, a note-taking tool, personalized dashboard, & much more!
You’ve successfully purchased a group discount. Your group members can use the joining link below to redeem their group membership. You'll also receive an email with the link.
Members will be prompted to log in or create an account to redeem their group membership.
Thanks for creating a SparkNotes account! Continue to start your free trial.
Your PLUS subscription has expired
Alfred, the protagonist, is the most dynamic character in the book. He undergoes many changes, both physical and emotional, and grows significantly throughout the length of the text. Lipsyte explores a number of issues— especially those that confront teenagers—through Alfred: growing up in a dangerous neighborhood, financial struggles, drug and crime temptations, lack of education, lack of direction and lack of a sense of self worth.
Read an in-depth analysis of Alfred Brooks.
Mr. Donatelli is the vehicle through which Alfred changes and evolves as a person. Mr. Donatelli is more than a boxing trainer; he functions as a life teacher. He always tells it like it is, is completely candid, and never sugarcoats the truth. He understands Alfred's motivations to be involved in boxing without Alfred ever having to tell him.
Read an in-depth analysis of Mr. Donatelli.
Aunt Pearl takes care of Alfred in the wake of Alfred's parents' death. She is a positive familial force in his life, although she disapproves of the boxing. The violence of the sport worries her, and she wishes Alfred would devote himself to safer, more productive activities. However, she allows Alfred to do it because she understands what it means to be able to pursue a dream, regardless of whether or not it comes to fruition.
James is Alfred's best friend, but James represents yet another aspect of Alfred's life that is stripped away. Throughout the book Alfred struggles to maintain and regain James's trust and friendship, as well as attempt to steer him away from drugs and crime. He and James used to do everything together, but throughout the course of the book their paths diverge, almost irreconcilably.
Read an in-depth analysis of James.
Major and Hollis try to push Alfred in the direction of James. They invite Alfred to parties and encourage his involvement in crime and drugs. They are also part of the reason he starts boxing—in the beginning of the book they beat him up and threaten him if he does not help them break into the Epsteins' store.
Alfred's boss, whose relationship with Alfred is mired when James, Major, and Hollis try to break into the store. Alfred's hard work helps to restore Mr. Epstein's trust in him, as does the knowledge that Alfred trains as a boxer. As an old boxer himself, Mr. Epstein develops a kinship with Alfred and pays for his lessons.
Read an in-depth analysis of Mr. Epstein.
Henry gets Alfred involved in boxing by mentioning that he works with Mr. Donatelli. Henry is a father figure for Alfred, helping him with his training inside and outside of the ring. Henry brings Alfred home after he is badly beaten up by Major and Hollis.
Spoon is a role model for Alfred not only because Spoon was a boxer, but because he gave up boxing in order to go back to school. Spoon's house is the one in which Alfred spends eating, resting, and relaxing the day of a fight.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Contender!