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Free Study Guide for The Fixer by Bernard Malamud

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There was a gathering at the brickyard that included Proshko; the drivers, Richter and Serdiuk; Secret Police gendarmes; plainclothes detectives; Kiev City Police; an Imperial Army general; Grubeshov; Colonel Bodyansky; Bibikov; representatives of the Black Hundreds; Ivan Semyonovitch; a priest named Father Anastasy who was an "expert" on the Jewish religion; and Yakov, with five armed guards. They were gathered there for a re-enactment of the crime.

Proshko said that he had known that Yakov was Jewish as soon as they met. He said that Yakov had altered the books at the brickyard so that he could benefit. Yakov called Proshko himself a liar and a thief, but nobody listened. Proshko said that he had seen a Hasid at the stable when Yakov had thought everyone was gone. Also, he had seen Yakov chasing boys at the brickyard.

Proshko told of finding matzos, flour and a bloody rag in Yakov's living space. He said that he had reported Yakov to the police after the funeral. He said that when he and Serdiuk and Richter had been up in Yakov's place, planning to pull up some suspiciously stained floorboards, they had seen an old gray haired Jew running out of the stable. Immediately afterward, they had noticed that the stable was on fire. Richter and Serdiuk both backed up what he said.


See Chapter V, Part 5, for what Bibikov said later about Proshko and Richter.



The group then went to the home of the boy who had been killed and talked to his mother, Marfa Golov. When Marfa saw Yakov, she said that he was surely the man her son had described, the man who chased him at the brickyard.

She showed everyone the boy's room, including Yakov. When Yakov was shown the room, he was carefully watched by Grubeshov, Ivan Semyonovitch, and Colonel Bodyansky, as well as Marfa and Father Anastasy. The small room had torn wallpaper, a dirty sheet and a torn blanket. Father Anastasy consoled Marfa, agreeing that Zhenia was a religious boy.

Later, the group met in Marfa's parlor. Yakov was included. Marfa was asked to give her version of what had happened to her son, Zhenia. She was more interested in talking about herself, making excuses for herself. Grubeshov guided her along, suggesting that she tell the group what had happened before the Jewish Passover. She said that on that Tuesday Zhenia had left for school at 6:00 am. He did not return home after school. Marfa said that she had gone to the home of her neighbor, Sofya Shiskovsky. Zhenia's friend, Vasya, who was Sofya’s son, had told her that, while he had seen him after school, Zhenia had not gone home with him. Marfa told the group that that caused her to think that he had gone to his grandmother's place. Thinking that he was at his grandmother's place, she had not worried about him. That night, she had become ill. She had been terribly sick for three days and had remained in bed for three additional days. When she had finally reported his disappearance to the police, his body was found.

Bibikov questioned why she had waited to report him missing. She explained that she had been very sick and that no visitors had come by. Grubeshov wanted Bibikov to stop asking questions so that Marfa could continue her story. Then, Grubeshov asked her to tell those gathered what Zhenia and his friend, Vasya, had told her regarding Yakov before he died. Marfa told them that both Zhenia and Vasya were afraid of "The Jew," which is how she referred to Yakov. One day the boys had seen two Jews go to Yakov's living quarters. Bibikov asked how they knew the men were Jews. Marfa responded that the men had had rough, long beards and had worn "Jewish clothing". She said that her son had told her that Yakov threatened to kill them. Another day Zhenia had seen two Jews try to catch a boy and take him to the stables, she said. Once Yakov had chased her boy with a long knife in the cemetery, in the dark and once both of them had seen a bottle of blood on his table. Their faces had turned green when they told her. Yakov said that it was only a jar of strawberry jam. Bibikov reminded Marfa that incidents like she described should have been reported to the police. Marfa retorted that she had had her fill of the police. Once she reported an assault and had been treated like she was the criminal. Because of that, she had lost time during which she could have been working. When asked to continue her story, she said that there was nothing else to tell.

Bibikov questioned her. He asked her if she had received stolen goods. Grubeshov told the witness that she did not need to respond to Bibikov's question. Marfa said that her enemies had spread rumors about her. Bibikov asked her if she had blinded a lover with carbolic acid. Grubeshov then pulled rank on Bibikov and stopped the questioning. Bibikov asked another question. He wanted to know if her lover, who she had blinded, had beat her son causing him to lose consciousness.


Throughout the book, many things are described as green. In this chapter, Zhenia’s and Vasya’s faces are said to have been green when they described to Marfa what they had seen on Yakov’s table.

There is additional interesting information about Marfa in Chapter IX, Part 3. And Bibikov’s opinion of her is in Chapter V, Part 5.

Sofya Shiskovsky, Marfa’s neighbor, is mentioned again in Chapter IX, Part 4.



The group then went to a place near where Zhenia's body was found. They climbed a hill, and then descended into a ravine. When they were near the cave where the body had been found, Father Anastasy told the group many bad things about the Jews. He said that some people called what he told them "superstitions from the past". But he admitted that some sects did what he described. These activities were forgotten about until another poor child died. Yakov cried out that it was all unbelievable. Yakov again stated that he was not a Hasid. He was a fixer. He pleaded his innocence. Grubeshov told him that he should confess.

Yakov was half-dragged and half-pushed up to the cave. Inside, Grubeshov showed Yakov his tool sack, which they claimed had been used in the killing. Yakov saw Marfa crying near the body of her son, which had been disinterred for the specific occasion. Yakov looked at the body and saw fourteen wounds on the face. He drew attention to the number, but the Prosecuting Attorney explained that it was "two magic groups of seven."


See Chapter V, Part 5, for Bibikov’s description of Father Anastasy. He refers to him as a charlatan.


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