An Analysis of Peer Pressure on Adolescents in the Book The Contender by Robert Lipsyte

Cmon dude, you hafta try it. I dont want to. Its cool, and its funtheres nothing bad about it, unless you get caught. I really dont think. Dont be wimp, man! If you wanna be cool like us, you gotta be bad like us! Now are you in, or not? Well, I guess

Your best friend Bobby is trying to persuade you to try cocaine. When a so-called friend tries to make you do something wrong, whether its drugs, alcohol, stealing, or cheating, its called peer pressure. Have you ever been involved in a situation similar to this before? Every day, kids all over the world are persuaded by acquaintances to do things that they shouldnt do. Many circumstances involving peer pressure can have bad results; however, peer pressure is not always negative like the situation above.

A healthy part of every child’s development is involvement with their peers. This is especially true during adolescence as teenagers develop a sense of independence from their parents. Peer pressure plays an incredible influence in the lives of people all over the world. Most everyone has different ideas and visions toward peer pressure.

Members of a peer group often dress alike, they talk about similar things, like the same music, laugh at the same jokes, and share secrets. In today’s world, peer groups and peer pressure are powerful influences on adolescent behavior. When a young person becomes overly dependent upon negative peer groups, the results can be serious. They can lose their sense of right and wrong, and even get tragically involved with drugs and alcohol. Although there are ways that peer pressure can have a negative impact on children, there are also some wonderful, positive influences given by ones companions. They can help you make the right choices, or persuade you to do something really great. In the book The Contender, Robert Lipsyte does indeed describe peer pressure on adolescents effectively.

The main character of the story, Alfred Brooks, is a young black teenager living in Harlem, New York during the 1960s. Throughout the book, he comes face-to-face with many good and bad cases regarding peer pressure. Having a friend to help you make your way on the right path in life is a wonderful advantage to anybody at any age. However, many people make misjudgments on their buddies and pals. Many youths have friends who could lead them into dangerous situations.

Smoking, drinking, stealing, cheating, fightingall of these are examples of factors that teenagers all over the world encounter during their lives. Friends are very important to kids of all ages. A good friend is someone who you can relate to, and most important, who you can trust. However, teens these days often find themselves stuck in situations where their so-called friend pressures them to do something that is wrong. There are many severe consequences when you give in to negative peer pressure; not only can you get into an extensive amount of trouble, but it is also an easy way to lose a friend.

For example, Tracy tries to convince her good friend Suzy to do drugs. This astonishes Suzy! Do you think that Suzy will want to stay friends with Tracy? If Suzy had given in to Tracys persuasion, and gotten into trouble, do you think that Suzys best friend Mary will want to remain close friends? A hurricane of tragic events could follow, and Suzy could find herself sinking deeper and deeper into the pit of desperation and depression. Trust is an important factor in both family life, and relationships with other people. Making a wrong choice could cause a permanent break in that trust.

For example, Joe is pushed by his buddies to steal the test answers out of the teachers desk. When he is caught, he denies ever taking anything. This situation involves stealing, cheating, and also lying. When the answer sheet is found in Joes locker, do you think that his teacher will ever trust him again? What about his parents? As you can see, a simple mistake can reap consequences that can change your life forever.

“Peer pressure is an influence that creates change or the desire for change and, often, that change is very positive.” -Marilyn Segal, Ph.D.

How can peer pressure have a good influence? Peers can applaud a friends achievement when she wins a tennis tournament, encourage her to try out for the school play, or challenge her to study harder. They teach compromise in a way that parents and siblings can’t, since a child who insists on having his or her own way all the time won’t end up having many friends. One benefit of positive peer pressure is that it can actually help a child develop a sense of morality.

A group of teens can get together and do something positive for the community by giving up themselves; they can see the results of their effort and feel a sense of pride in their accomplishment, which improves their self- image. Peers provide reinforcement for the values that a child learns at home. For example, a parent at home teaches their child the importance of honesty. When a group of kids bring something like drugs or alcohol to school, it can make you feel like you are torn between covenant of friendship, and what you know is right. When another friend has the courage to turn these friends in, it reinforces your instinct that honesty is always the best policy. The most well brought up child must take his or her values out into the world and test them with peers.

The Contender is a story of a young black teenager living in Harlem during the 1960s, when the Civil Rights movement is beginning to open doors for African Americans. Alfred Brooks has dropped out of high school and his life is going nowhere. The book takes the reader through a plethora of circumstances in which peer pressure is involved. Major, Sonny, and Hollis are three brutal, tough, hoodlum-type boys who hang out at the local club. They like to be known as the bad guys, and are always looking for trouble.

At the beginning of the book, Alfred goes to the clubroom to find his best friend James hanging out with them. Alfred and James had been planning to go to the movies that night, but James had forgotten. Then, Major and the boys got up and said that they were going to rob the cash registers at the nearby grocery store. Alfred watched his once-best-friend follow the boys. Major called out to Alfred, Are you coming, or not? Freeze. This right here is a perfect example of contrary peer pressure. Should he follow? Is it worth it? His best friend is going with themshould he go too? Fortunately, in the story, Alfred refuses to go with them, and he walks his own separate way.

Many times during the book, he is faced with similar conditions. As the story goes on, Alfred realizes that his life is empty of excitement, challenge, determination, and even happiness. Estranged from his best friend and targeted by the gang of thugs, he desperately wants to turn his life around. One night, he wanders into a gym and meets Mr. Donatelli, a boxing manager deeply concerned for the fighters he trains. Alfred decides that this is what he wants. He puts himself through the severity and discipline of training, building perseverance and developing a true skill, while one question nags at him — whether he really has what it takes. However, Alfred sticks with it with the determination, positive advice and assistance of peers. In particular, his relationship with Mr. Donatelli is very important. Mr. Donatelli acts as both a role model and confidant to Alfred.

Mr. Donatelli believes in Alfred, and gives him the self-assurance he needs to make it. He trains Alfred to improve his ability to box, and he also teaches Alfred a substantial lesson on life; to push yourself to continue with whatever you dream of succeeding in. From the very beginning, Henry, a handicapped boy who helps out at the gym, kept trying to persuade Alfred to come to the gym. He encourages Alfred. In this case, peer pressure acted positively. Alfred went to the gym, started boxing, and couldnt remember the last time he felt so great. Henry watches Alfreds back, keeping him on track and out of trouble. When Alfred was beaten up on the streets, Henry found him and carried him home again. He went out of his way to help Alfred when he needed it, and never let him give up.

Spoon, a retired boxer who became a teacher, convinced Alfred to return to high school. He felt that without proper education, you couldnt get anywhere in life. Such positive influences on Alfred helped him turn his life around, and make positive choices. Without such peers, Alfred would still be a high-school dropout on the streets, heading nowhere.

Throughout his life, Alfred learned how incredibly important peer pressure is, especially in adolescence, when so many important choices need to be made. The positive and negative influences of others teach us important lessons, but the ultimate decision is ours. Robert Lipsyte uses such adroit writing in The Contender, teaching readers the values and influences of peer pressure. It provides an important message, that you need to follow your own heart, to do what you know is right, and to make the right choices when it comes to being involved with peer pressure. It is important to choose friends who build ones self-confidence and reinforce the values learned at home and in school. Life is full of opportunities; dont let them pass you by, by making the wrong choices.

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