Although he has dropped out of high school, Alfred has accepted responsibility in life. Unlike James and the gang members, he has a job. Aunt Pearl praises him for that and says that she will not treat him like a little boy. But this is a "coming of age" story. At the beginning of the novel, Alfred only dreams of a life as an adult. Part of that dream is to transcend the repressive atmosphere of the mean streets of Harlem. The novel tells the story of how he achieves his dream.Henry, a physically disabled acquaintance who aspires to become a fight manager, urges Alfred to visit Donatelli's Gym, which is famous for having trained several boxing champions. Alfred's climb up the staircase to the gym is symbolic; he is beginning his climb toward maturity. At the gym, he meets Donatelli, a wise mentor. The manager tells Alfred that nothing is promised. He should be sure that
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