Places Discussed

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Bonaparte home

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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

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1048

The Great Depression
Although the exact causes of the Great Depression are still debated, most historians agree that the Stock Market Crash of 1929 helped to usher in this huge economic downturn. However, as the country began to sink financially, President Herbert Hoover, along with many others, thought that the crisis was temporary. Unfortunately, the situation only got worse. This fact, coupled with Hoover’s unyielding stance in not providing federal public aid to individuals, meant that an increasing number of individuals and families were losing their jobs. Starvation became a real issue, and crowds of men would gather around the backs of restaurants, fighting over food scraps in the garbage. The suicide rate steadily rose, and millions of families left their homes to try to find work. In many cases these migrant families would set up shelters on vacant lots in other cities and towns; groups of these shelters came to be known as Hoovervilles.

Boxing in the 1930s
Many people sought relief from the horrors of everyday life in the depression through escapist activities like going to the movies or sporting events, when they could afford them. In such depressed times, sports franchises had to come up with increasingly more sensational events to get people to watch their matches. This was especially true with boxing which at the time was second in popularity only to baseball. In 1935, Joe Louis, a young African-American boxer who had stormed through the amateur ranks, signed a large...

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Critical Essays


Teaching Guide