Free Study Guide for The Assistant by Bernard Malamud|
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Frank tries to stop himself, but he cannot. He blurts out the fact that he was one of the robbers. She screams and runs away from him.
Frank continues to operate the grocery. After Christmas, business worsens. Frank has a tough time financially. He has trouble paying the suppliers. But while, at times, others do not get paid, Frank always pays Ida. These payments enable Helen to attend night college.
Frank is always tired. He sleeps between customers both at the Coffee Pot and at the grocery.
Frank worries about Nat and the attention that he pays to Helen. He hears Nat courting Helen in the hall. Worse than hearing their voices is the silence when he imagines that they are necking. Frank is jealous.
The only way that Frank sees Helen is through the window of the grocery.
Frank enters a bad period. He spies on Helen by climbing the air shaft and looking at her when she is naked, like he did earlier. He does this twice. He cheats customers. He short-weights them. And, he short-changes one of them. Then, just as suddenly as he entered the bad period, he leaves it. He stops climbing the air shaft and starts being honest with the customers again.
Helen, on her way home from studying with a girl from her class one night, notices Frank working at the Coffee Pot. At first she has a strange feeling. Then, she turns and sees Frank through the window. He does not see her. It all becomes clear to her what Frank has been doing and for whom he has been doing it.
Later, at home and in bed, she realizes that he truly has changed in his heart.
A week later, Helen approaches Frank and thanks him for his help. He mentions the idea of her going to day college. She declines because he is already working so hard but then promises to think about it. Helen then tells him that she is still using the Shakespeare book that he gave to her.
The following night, Frank hears a verbal fight between Helen and Nat in which Helen slaps Nat.
Frank grows a mustache and finds red hairs in it. Did he get the red from his mother, he wonders.
One morning, while Frank is reading the bible, which he has started doing, he has a thought or day dream in which Saint Francis is in front of the grocery and takes the discarded wooden rose out of the trash and it becomes real. Then, Saint Francis gives the rose to Helen and she takes it even though it is from Frank Alpine.
Frank has himself circumcised and, after Passover, becomes a Jew.
Early in the chapter, Helen wants to make Morris's life meaningful by earning a degree (p. 283). But, later in the chapter (p. 289), when Frank suggests that, by accepting his help and returning to college, she would be doing something for her father, she balks. She cannot do that which she wants to do because it would involve Frank.
There are more references to red in this chapter. Helen is wearing a red dress, trimmed in black, when she goes to the library, and then, runs into Frank afterward. Frank finds red hairs in the mustache that he is growing.
Notice that Frank seems to have become Morris. For verification of this, notice the similarity between what Morris does in the first few pages of the novel and what Frank does in the last few pages. Both feed the old Polish woman early in the morning. Both watch Nick Fuso return from shopping elsewhere. Both fix tea with lemon for the bulb peddler.
There is no conclusion to the courtship of Helen by Frank, but we are led to think that they may possibly end up together.
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Johnson, Jane. "TheBestNotes on The Assistant".
. 09 May 2017