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Free Online Study Guide-The Contender by Robert Lipsyte-Book Summary/BookNotes
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THE CONTENDER-FREE STUDY GUIDE

CHAPTER 4

Summary

Since it is Sunday, Alfred accompanies his aunt and nieces to church. On their way they pass a group of blacks trying to persuade others to join them in their fight against the injustice inflicted by the whites. They try to get Alfred to accompany them on their freedom march, but he ignores them. Inside the church, Alfred takes a seat in the rear. When he looks back, he sees Major standing in the doorway and looking at him. His presence makes Alfred restless, and he cannot concentrate on the sermon; however, when the pastor talks about the "devil in disguise," Alfred thinks about Major and the black protestors.

After church, Alfred and his family take the subway to Queens, where Aunt Dorothy and Uncle live. When they reach their house, they are warmly greeted and given a sumptuous meal. As they eat, Uncle Wilson advises Alfred to equip himself for the future by taking advantage of all the opportunities available to him.

After returning home, Alfred contemplates his day before going to bed. He also thinks about his training as a boxer and sets the alarm to wake him up early in the morning, for he plans to go jogging in the park.


Notes

In this chapter, more is learned about the values of Alfred's family. Aunt Pearl tries to raise the children correctly and makes certain that they attend church each Sunday. When they pass by the black protestors, the children try to ignore them, following the example of their aunt, who has taught them not to be troublemakers. Pearl has also taught the children the value of extended family. They look forward to their visit with Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Wilson and enjoy the delicious meal that has been prepared for them. During dinner, Uncle Wilson counsels Alfred about preparing for the future by taking advantage of present opportunities, which is sound advice.

Major proves that he is going to be a nuisance to Alfred throughout the novel. After beating him up in the first chapter, he stares at Alfred from the doorway of the church, making him feel nervous and restless. It is appropriate that when the pastor talks about devils in disguise, Alfred thinks about Major. Because Alfred has chosen the right path by deciding to join the gym, he will be able to avoid the devils in his life.

Alfred shows that he has a natural instinct to protect others. On his subway journey to Queens, he sees an attractive girl sitting opposite him. He imagines the girl in distress and his coming to her rescue. On his return subway trip, Alfred sees a drunk sitting across from him. He immediately becomes alert and thinks about protecting his family. He also thinks about James and wishes that there were some way he could help him.

Alfred also shows his determination to reach his goals at the end of the chapter. Having decided to go into training as boxer, he sets his alarm clock to ring early so that he can get up and jog. He has a restless sleep, for he keeps waking up to check the time. He does not want to miss out on his first opportunity to prove him is serious about becoming a contender.


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