Free Study Guide for The Assistant by Bernard Malamud|
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The following morning, Morris goes job-hunting. The first stop is at Charlie Sobeloff's place. Sobeloff was once Morris's partner. The partnership and the store they had were originally Sobeloff's idea. Sobeloff had another idea as well. He would be the accountant for the business. Two years later, two years during which Morris did not look at the books, the business collapsed. Morris lost everything. Sobeloff raised enough cash to repurchase the store and was soon back in business. Over time Morris's hatred of Sobeloff has dissipated. And, in his time of need, he decides to turn to him. But, he does not tell Ida, whose feelings toward Sobeloff have not changed.
As Morris hurries past Karp's liquor store he sees five customers and wishes that the store would burn down.
Morris finds that Sobeloff's Self-Service Market is very large. He refuses to envy Sobeloff, but does regret that he himself has so little money with which to help Helen. Morris pictures himself asking Sobeloff for a job, Sobeloff giving him a part time job as a cashier, then telling him at the end of a shift that he is a dollar short. Morris walks away from the front of the store without going inside.
Next, Morris goes to an employment agency and finds that they have nothing for him. Then, he applies for a waiter's job, but finds that it has already been filled. At another agency, he is told to go home.
Morris goes by bus to see Breitbart. When he arrives at the peddler's home, only his son is there. After resting, Morris leaves. The next stop is at Al Marcusís apartment. Marcus is in the hospital, so Morris goes home.
That night a man stops by the store and offers to burn it down for a price. This way, Morris could collect on the insurance. The man would use a strip of celluloid to start the fire and no one would be able to tell that it was intentionally set. Morris will not agree.
The following night when Morris knows everyone is out of the building, he looks for a celluloid collar that he remembers having. He cannot find the collar, but finds some celluloid negatives instead. He goes downstairs and decides to start a fire in the air shaft. Immediately after starting it, he wants to put out the fire, but can't. As he tries, Frank comes up behind him and helps. After the fire is out, Frank pleads with Morris to take him back. Morris refuses.
When, upon confessing his part in the robbery, Frank momentarily hears birds singing, it is a reference to Saint Francis's life, indicating the influence that stories about the saint have had on Frank.
Frank tells Tessie Fuso that he does not know where he will go. When Morris starts the fire in the dumbwaiter, Frank is there to save him. It appears that Frank did not go anywhere outside the building. He must have stayed in the cellar, like he did for a time, in the past.
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Johnson, Jane. "TheBestNotes on The Assistant".
. 09 May 2017