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Dukes Summary

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

With the present-day issue of the plight of the homeless, it is ironic to read Dukes, a novel set almost a century earlier, and draw parallels between the historical characters and today's homeless people.

Lucky, a young girl, Nose, an old geezer, and Baptist, a deaf and mute black man, travel from Florida town to Florida town playing music to drum up an audience and contenders for their bare-dukes-only boxing match. Any man paying ten dollars can challenge Baptist and win one hundred dollars if he can knock the boxer down. Townspeople pay a dollar apiece to watch the event, with children attending free. This motley crew of three makes a living in this fashion, squirreling away extra money that never seems to be enough to buy themselves a little land and a home of their own.

The inner dignity of human beings strikes a universal chord, no matter the social or economic status of the reader. In this time of peer pressure and the desire to be anonymous within a group, there is a lesson in this novel, of individuality and pride of knowing right and wrong, that young adults would do well to heed.