Free Study Guide for The Assistant by Bernard Malamud|
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CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND ANALYSIS
The scene changes to the subway and Helen Bober, who is the twenty-three year old daughter of Morris and Ida. She is returning home after a day working at Levenspiel's Louisville Panties and Bras. She is uncomfortable when Nat Pearl talks to her. She has known Nat for years. They grew up together. But things are more complicated now than when they were children. Recently, she slept with Nat, but afterward discovered that he only wanted to have sex, not a more meaningful relationship such as she herself wanted. Her reaction to this discovery was to avoid him whenever possible. Being on the subway together makes this impossible, however. Nat sees that she is reading Don Quixote.
The scene shifts back to Morris as he awakens from his nap and heads downstairs. Helen arrives home and gives her paycheck to her father. Every pay day, Helen gives her paycheck to her parents and receives back only a small amount. Morris, who feels badly about his inability to send Helen to college, offers to let her have more of her paychecks for herself, but she declines.
Karp stops by the store wanting to know if the potential buyer came by. Karp also mentions a car that has driven by repeatedly. Karp is afraid that someone is planning a robbery. Morris is to call the police when he hears Karp's voice. He leaves and later calls Morris, telling him to call the police. But, Morris doesn't get to the phone before two robbers enter his store. Morris tells them that he has no money, but one of the robbers, the one with the gun, calls him a liar and hits him in the face. The other robber gives Morris a cup of water. After they search the store and again ask for money, receiving an unsatisfactory response, the robber with the gun hits Morris a second time. This time, Morris passes out.
The robber who did not hit Morris is the title character, "The Assistant." When he and Morris meet again, Morris will not realize that he was one of the robbers.
There is an admonition to writers that says to write about what you know. That seems to be what the author did in writing this novel. His father, not unlike Morris Bober, was an immigrant and operated a grocery store when the author was young.
Notice that ethnicity is an important part of life within the setting of the story. Notice also that the neighborhood has a wide variety of ethnicities.
Morris and Ida Bober speak English with a sprinkling of Yiddish words, but continue to use Yiddish grammar. This is very helpful in giving their conversations an authentic feel.
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Johnson, Jane. "TheBestNotes on The Assistant".
. 09 May 2017