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Free Study Guide for The Fixer by Bernard Malamud

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The Fixer by Bernard Malamud is set in pre-Revolutionary Russia. It begins in a shtetl (a small Jewish village) near Kiev. As the story progresses, the action moves to the city of Kiev and then to a prison in that city. The time period of the story is around 1911 to 1913.


Major Characters

Yakov Bok
Yakov Bok is the main character. He is a very likeable person. He is Jewish, and the Jewish people have a very difficult time in pre-Revolutionary Russia. There is always the possibility of becoming the victim of a pogrom (an uprising of physical attacks and persecution against the Jewish people in a region or city). Yakov enjoys reading. His wife has left him.

Shmuel is Yakov’s father-in-law. He is a father figure for Yakov, whose father died years ago. He lives near Yakov as the story begins. He is very serious about his religion.

Bibikov is one person who believes that Yakov is innocent of the crime of which he is accused. He is the Investigating Magistrate for Cases of Extraordinary Importance. He wants the person who is really guilty of the crime of which Yakov is accused to be found.

The Deputy Warden
The Deputy Warden is the antagonist of the story. He is very cruel, crueler than the warden is.

Minor Characters

Nikolai Lebedev
Nikolai Lebedev is a man who Yakov rescues in Kiev. He rewards Yakov for his help by giving him a job. Later, he hires him for a more important job working at his brickyard.

Zhitnyak is a guard at the prison where Yakov is held. He gets in trouble for allowing Shmuel to visit Yakov. After that incident, he is no longer Yakov’s guard.

Kogin is also a guard in the prison where Yakov is held. Usually he works at night. He worries a lot about his son who has been sentenced to prison.

Berezhinsky is another guard. He replaces Zhitnyak.

Grubeshov is the Prosecuting Attorney. He wants to prove that Yakov is guilty. He knows that to do so would please Tsar Nicholas II. He knows that his career will be advanced if he is successful.

Marfa Golov
Marfa Golov is the mother of the boy, Zhenia, who was murdered. Bibikov suspects that she or one of her group is the real killer.

Ivan Kuzminsky
Ivan Kuzminsky assists Bibikov in his job.

Zinaida Lebedev
Zinaida Lebedev is the daughter of Nikolai Lebedev. She tries to be friends with Yakov, but later turns on him after he is accused of the murder of Zhenia.

Aaron Latke
Aaron Latke has a flat in Kiev where Yakov stays before he starts staying at the brickyard.

Father Anastasy
Father Anastasy is considered by some to be an expert in Judaism. He talks to those who are gathered at the reenactment of the murder. He is expected to be an “expert” witness at Yakov’s trial.

Colonel Bodyansky
Colonel Bodyansky is with Grubeshov during his interrogation of Yakov. He threatens Yakov.

Fetyukov is a prisoner. He is a murderer. He believes Yakov when he says that he is innocent.

Gronfein is another prisoner. He is a counterfeiter. He tricks Yakov into writing letters that he then gives to the authorities so that he can obtain his own release from prison.

Tsar Nicholas II
Tsar (Czar) Nicholas II is not actually in the story. But, Yakov imagines him. Also, he is the driving force behind the persecution of Yakov because he needs a distraction to keep the people from thinking about the bad things that he himself has done.


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Johnson, Jane. "TheBestNotes on The Fixer". . 09 May 2017