Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Bonaparte home

Bonaparte home. New York City home of young boxer Joe Bonaparte and his family. The furnishings of its combination dining-living room suggest a world of culture and the arts. Its plaster busts of composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig von Beethoven and piles of newspapers reflect the family’s interest in music and the arts. Mr. Bonaparte has bought Joe an expensive violin; Joe is initially drawn to the violin, but eventually he chooses to leave it with his father when he chooses boxing over music. At the end of the play Joe’s father hears about his son’s accidental death and talks about bringing him home.

Park bench

Park bench. Set used only by Joe and his mistress, Lorna. The bench is associated with their developing romantic interest in each other and with Joe’s discussion about boxing versus music.

Moody’s office

Moody’s office. Office of Joe’s boxing manager, Tom Moody. Its meager furnishings are appropriate because Tom is almost broke and needs a successful fighter to stay financially secure. It is the place where Joe gets his start in the ring, where plans are made for his future, where his relationship with Lorna begins to sour.


Gymnasium. Facility in which Joe trains. While he works out there, the mobster Eddie Fuseli argues with Moody about Fuseli’s owning “part” of Joe, and Tom encourages Lorna to become friendly with Joe to protect Tom’s interest in him. Here, the emphasis is not on sports; it is on the dark underside of the boxing business.

Dressing room

Dressing room. Dressing room at the arena in which Joe boxes with the Chocolate Drop King, where all the play’s characters gather at the end of act 2. Mr. Bonaparte, whom Joe describes as his “conscience,” watches as he reveals that he has broken his hand, rendering him unable to play the violin. For Joe, it is “the beginning of the world.” However, it is also the end; in the next dressing-room scene Joe discovers that he has killed his opponent. In his desire to escape from his actions, he speeds away with Lorna in a car and dies in an accident that is foreshadowed by his preoccupation with speed and a remark that his violin case looks like a coffin.

Historical Context

(Drama for Students)

The Great Depression
Although the exact causes of the Great Depression are still debated, most historians agree that the Stock...

(The entire section is 1048 words.)

Literary Style

(Drama for Students)

Social Drama
Odets earned his fame through the social dramas of his early career which openly advocated that the masses fight...

(The entire section is 924 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Drama for Students)

1930s: The Great Depression begins shortly after the Stock Market Crash of 1929, and continues throughout the 1930s, shattering the...

(The entire section is 187 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Drama for Students)

The Great Depression is the most devastating economic collapse that has hit the United States thus far, although the current downturn has...

(The entire section is 290 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Drama for Students)

Golden Boy was adapted as a film in 1939 by Columbia Pictures. Directed by Rouben Mamoulian, the film features William Holden as Joe...

(The entire section is 184 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Drama for Students)

In Golden Boy, Joe gives up his dreams of music to enter the brutal world of boxing. Today, violence in boxing sometimes extends...

(The entire section is 583 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Drama for Students)

Demastes, William W., ‘‘Clifford Odets (1906–1963),’’ in American Playwrights, 1880–1945, Greenwood...

(The entire section is 582 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Brenman-Gibson, Margaret. Clifford Odets, American Playwright: The Years from 1906 to 1940. New York: Atheneum, 1981. This thorough psychoanalytical study of Odets discusses the origins and psychological significance of Golden Boy.

Clurman, Harold. The Fervent Years: The Story of the Group Theatre and the Thirties. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945. Clurman tells how Odets wrote Golden Boy to rescue the Group Theatre from insolvency. He offers worthwhile artistic insights into the play.

Miller, Gabriel, ed. Critical Essays on Clifford Odets. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1991. This useful...

(The entire section is 208 words.)