Places: Golden Boy

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1937

First produced: 1937

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Social realism

Time of work: 1930’s

Places DiscussedBonaparte home

Bonaparte Golden Boyhome. 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.

BibliographyBrenman-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 collection contains essays on most of Odets’ plays, including Golden Boy, which is also referred to in many of the essays.Shuman, R. Baird. Clifford Odets. New York: Twayne, 1962. Shuman devotes one nine-page section to Golden Boy and refers to the play frequently throughout his critical biography.Strouse, Charles. “Golden Boy”: The Book of a Musical. New York: Bantam Books, 1966. The musical version of Golden Boy is presented in its entirety, accompanied by a revealing foreword by William Gibson, who completed the musical version after Odets’ death in 1963.Weales, Gerald. Odets: The Playwright. New York: Methuen, 1985. A sensible starting point for beginners, this lucid, concise overview of Clifford Odets includes a six-page section devoted to Golden Boy, along with frequent other references to the play.
Categories: Places