What is the narrative perspective in Golden Boy?

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In Clifford Odets's Golden Boy, the principal narrative perspective can be seen as that of Joe Bonaparte's father. The elder Bonaparte is the only one who clearly understands that his son will be corrupted by the fight business, and that by giving up his earlier plans to devote himself to music, Joe is essentially destroying himself.

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In a stage play, when one speaks of narrative perspective, it necessarily means something different from say, the perspective or point of view in a novel, which may be written in the first person or, if it's a third-person narrative, may nevertheless be a story told or seen from the point of view of a protagonist or protagonists. In drama, unless it's a play such as Thornton Wilder's Our Town, for instance, in which the character of the Stage-Manager serves as a kind of emcee who describes and controls the action, the perspective is one the audience must deduce from the themes or the "message" the play puts forth. At times, it can even be a relatively minor character who embodies or expresses such a point of view, and who is the voice of the author, seeing the action and the meaning of the drama as the author does.

In Golden Boy, the central idea animating the play is that money, along with the need people have to sacrifice their more important and worthwhile goals in order to enrich themselves materially, is a destructive force. Joe Bonaparte is a young man who has the potential to become a great musician, but he throws this away to become a prize-fighter, knowing that in the ring he'll have the ability to make himself into a superstar, to become famous and fabulously wealthy. The one person who consistently sees this as the wrong path for Joe is his father. Those Joe surrounds himself with—his manager Tom Moody, Tom's girlfriend Lorna (who falls in love with Joe but still intends to marry Tom), Eddie Fuseli (the gangster who "buys a piece" of Joe), and the others in the fight world—are all wrapped up in their superficial values and are all false and corrupt in one way or another. Joe does become a great fighter, but he accidentally kills an opponent in the ring, and this ironically (though not unexpectedly in the fight business) ensures his route to the championship. But as if recognizing the wrongness of the path he's taken, Joe and Lorna drive off together and are killed in a car crash. It would have been impossible for Joe to return to music as a career because his hands have become permanently injured, as happens to all boxers. Joe's father has taken no pleasure in his son's rise to fame and success, and the audience is to understand that the corrupt, violent world of prize-fighting is a metaphor of the false value at the basis of a materialistic society. The elder Bonaparte's perspective is that of the author. In his plays, Odets typically presents situations in which characters are torn between their desire for meaningful fulfillment and the demands of the world that worships money. In Golden Boy, the success Joe experiences in the prize-ring changes his personality, hardens him, and makes him betray his earlier, idealistic intentions. When the news is announced that Joe and Lorna are dead, Mr. Bonaparte simply says to the others, who are clueless, "What did you expect?"

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