Free Study Guide for The Assistant by Bernard Malamud|
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Morris lost his son years ago. He now develops a father-son relationship with Frank Alpine. It is through his talks with Frank that Frank changes.
Helen Bober is the twenty-three year old daughter of Morris and Ida Bober. She lives with them. She is not married. She works at Levenspiel's Louisville Panties & Bras. She gives her pay to her father, who gives a little of it back to her. She reads books, but yearns for a "real" education. Slowly, she becomes interested in Frank. At first, she likes the Frank that she imagines him becoming, not the person that he actually is at that time.
This story is based on two medieval legends. One is the life of Saint Francis. Saint Francis is mentioned in several places in The Assistant and there are additional references to him as well. The characters in the second legend upon which this story is based are not mentioned by name like Saint Francis is. That legend is about the Waste Land and the grail knight, Percival, and the Fisher King, who is maimed.
In the Saint Francis legend, Saint Francis is like Frank and Christ is like Morris.
In the other legend, Percival is like Frank and the Fisher King is like Morris. The Waste Land is like the grocery store. The injury that Morris receives in the robbery is the equivalent of the maiming of the Fisher King
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Johnson, Jane. "TheBestNotes on The Assistant".
. 10 May 2008