Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Never Come Morning, like all of Algren’s novels, is a study of doom working itself out. Bruno “Lefty” Bicek is a young Polish American imprisoned in the Polish slums of Chicago, so oppressively isolated that the outside filters through only in films and tabloids. These promise a glorified version of success, but the American Dream is closer to nightmare in this world of police lineups, gangs, petty crime, and brothels. Here everyone is either the hunter or the hunted, who have nothing to lose but are too worried about being cheated of what they are owed to trust anyone else.
Like the rest, Bruno, hungering for boxing glory, scorns the Old World values of hard work and religious faith, but he is not strong enough to live by the New World’s capitalistic code of violence and deception. Bruno thinks of himself as a wolf, but he is a dreamer instead of a schemer; though sensitive and humane, he is too crippled by conscience to protect himself and too insecure to protect others. Despite his boxing prowess, he cannot stand up to his more brutal inferiors, either the knife-wielding Fireball Kodadek or the blackmailing Bonifacy “the barber” Konstantine, who wants to control his boxing career.
In a world where everything is a cheat, love seems as false as every other promise, but to destroy love in Algren’s novels is to destroy oneself. This is what happens when Bruno, asserting himself as a gang leader, seduces and betrays Steffi...
(The entire section is 554 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Nelson Algren’s Never Come Morning is rooted in Chicago, particularly in its Polish slums, and concerns the fate of Bruno (Lefty) Bicek, a seventeen-year-old with ambitions of becoming either a professional baseball player or a professional boxer. The novel begins, however, with a boxing match which is lost by Casey Benkowski, who, as a slightly older version of Bruno, foreshadows Bruno’s “loss” after a boxing victory at the end of the novel. Through the chapter headings in book 1 of the novel, “The Trouble with Casey” is tied directly to “The Trouble with Bicek,” and the reader learns the fate of ambitious young men.
Under the tutelage of Casey and the “sponsorship” of Bonifacy Konstantine, Bruno steals a slot machine and transforms his neighborhood gang, the Warriors, into the “Baldheads,” who must have their heads shaved by Bonifacy. As president and treasurer of the new gang, Bruno has status that he exploits with Steffi Rostenkowski, whom he subsequently seduces. Before the reader learns what Bruno’s “trouble” is, Algren comments that the two events have brought Bruno from dependence to independence, from boyhood to manhood, and, ironically, from “vandalism to hoodlumhood.” One of Bruno’s “troubles” is his adherence to the gang’s code and his desire to belong, but he also fears Fireball Kodadek and his knife. Consequently, when the gang insists on their rights to Steffi, Bruno, though inwardly torn,...
(The entire section is 486 words.)
Bibliography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Beauvoir, Simone de. A Transatlantic Love Affair: Letters to Nelson Algren. New York: New Press, 1998. Although Beauvoir’s letters do not specifically address Algren’s works, they do illuminate his character and personality.
Drew, Bettina. Nelson Algren: A Life on the Wild Side. New York: Putnam, 1989. Drew presents the first full-scale biography of Algren and offers critical perspectives on his novels. Includes bibliographical references.
Giles, James R. Confronting the Horror: The Novels of Nelson Algren. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1989. A collection of essays that focuses on the naturalism in Algren’s works. Includes a bibliography for further study.