What do people passing say about Alfred as they pass him on the board walk in The Contender?

When Alfred gets sick on the boardwalk in The Contender, people nearby comment on his condition. One thinks it's disgusting. Another sympathetically remarks, "Poor kid." A third thinks that Alfred is a junkie who hasn't yet realized that he cannot beat addiction through food.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Robert Lipsyte's novel The Contender, Alfred Brooks wants to be a boxer, a contender who can win. He begins training with Mr. Donatelli, but after only six weeks, he gets discouraged because he hasn't participated in a real fight yet. He is impatient with only training and exercise, and that impatience leads him to some very poor choices.

Alfred goes to a party given by his friend Major and uses alcohol and drugs. He messes himself up quite badly, so he is hardly able to think when Major later calls him and invites him to go to Coney Island. Alfred decides to go, but soon he wakes up enough to realize that Major has stolen the car in which they are riding. When the police show up, the boys scatter. Alfred hurts his ankle but keeps on running all the way to the boardwalk.

Alfred is still mostly in a fog but soon discovers that he is hungry (and hasn't eating anything for a couple days). He gobbles down spare ribs, corn, French fries, and soda, but the meal definitely doesn't agree with him, and he throws up over the boardwalk railing. Several people passing by make comments as they notice Alfred. One merely remarks, "Disgusting." Another feels rather sorry for Alfred and says, "Poor kid." A third person has an explanation for Alfred's behavior and notes, "A junkie, tryin' to beat it with food, just can't do it, you just can't..."

Alfred flees the scene and wanders aimlessly for hours, trying to come out of his substance-induced fog and figure out what he wants to do with himself. Eventually, he decides that he has to see if he can really become a contender.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial