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Teachers: Get the most out of your time in the classroom when you use this lesson plan for a popular young adult novel, The Contender by Robert Lipsyte. In addition to providing comprehensive character analyses, this lesson plan will help you and your students explore the novel's primary themes, including the problems of conformity and the benefits of self-improvement. Examples of guided discussion and study questions from this lesson plan include the following:
- Describe the relationship between James and Alfred in Contender. They were best friends as kids. They were slowly growing apart as young adults. After James got caught for the robbery, they were very distant. Alfred missed his old friend, but he was not interested in participating in James' new lifestyle of crime and drugs.
- What kind of a man was Bud? Bud knew his place as Mr. Donatelli's assistant. He was an older man, experienced, firm but fair, and possessed a sense of humor.
- Why did Alfred go to Madison Square Garden? Mr. Donatelli had left tickets for him to go watch a fight.
- Why did Mr. Donatelli stop Willie's fight? He stopped the fight ". . . to save him from being hurt and to save him . . . from showing himself a coward in front of the crowd."
- Identify Spoon from Contender. Bill Witherspoon was a former fighter managed by Mr. Donatelli. He went on to become a teacher after his boxing career. He met Alfred at Willie's fight.
- What did Major want Alfred to do? He wanted him to cut the alarm wires at Epstein's.
- Why did Alfred stand up to Major in Contender? What was the result? He had things he wanted to do, and being involved with a crime would mess up his future, so he refused Major. Major backed down and gained a new respect for Alfred.
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