Free Study Guide for The Assistant by Bernard Malamud|
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The Norwegians, Taast and Pederson, open with specials that draw Morris's customers away. But, Frank rationalizes that they cannot have such low prices for long. The store does not take in as much as previously. Frank takes money out of his savings and adds it to the cash register, a little at a time, to minimize the appearance of loss.
After ten days, Morris comes home. Frank frets about what to say to Morris to appease him so that Morris will let him stay. Instead of saying anything, Frank postpones a visit to him upstairs.
Frank also thinks a lot about Helen. He tries to apologize to her but is told that he makes her ill. Then, she acts like he is invisible.
Frank paints the store, one section at a time. He also replaces some of the shelving. But, he notices no increase in the number of customers.
Ida is calmed by the fact that Helen is obviously no longer interested in Frank, but she is concerned because Helen shows no interest in any man.
Frank cuts down on expenses, using less gas and having the telephone removed. He continues to obsess about Helen.
Helen, too, suffers from her memories. She decides not to attend Betty's wedding.
Frank decides to collect some money that Carl, the Swedish painter, owes to Morris. He spots Carl, coming out of Karp's liquor store, and follows him home. Later he goes to his home to collect what is owed. While he waits for Carl to wake up he has an opportunity to observe Carl's wife and four children at dinnertime. His heart goes out to them and he leaves without talking to Carl. He heads to his place and gets his last three dollars. As he heads over to Carl's place with the money, he encounters Ward Minogue. He looks unhealthy. Ward wants to exchange Frank's gun that Ward has for some cash. Frank gives him the three dollars, takes the gun, and gets rid of it.
Interested in Jews, Frank goes to the library and gets a book about them. He reads some of the book, but cannot finish it.
Frank spies on the Norwegians and finds that their shelves are full and their store is brightly lit.
Frank gets a job at the Coffee Pot. He is a counterman and, at times, a dishwasher. He works when he should be sleeping, but manages to catch up on his sleep during the day in the grocery because there are so few customers now. He puts his thirty-five dollar weekly salary into the cash register.
Frank's misery continues. He thinks of things that he wants to say, but does not say them. He suffers from his non-existence in Helen's eyes. He thinks often of leaving, but will not let himself.
Frank makes a wood carving. It is his first one. It is of a bird. Then he carves a rose. He leaves it for Helen. She takes it, but discards it by the curb, where he finds it.
In this chapter, we read Frank's version of what led up to the rape. While Frank's guilt is not decreased by the information, our understanding of him is increased, which is a good thing.
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Johnson, Jane. "TheBestNotes on The Assistant".
. 09 May 2017