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Free Study Guide for The Fixer by Bernard Malamud

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After some days passed, Yakov was taken to Grubeshov's office. The prosecutor had on a light green suit. Grubeshov told Yakov that he would be going to Kiev Prison. He would await his trial in the preliminary confinement cell there. Grubeshov offered Yakov a new opportunity to confess. Again, Yakov argued that he was innocent. Grubeshov told him that they had known that he was guilty before they arrested him. If he would tell them who put the idea in his head, and who had made promises or threats to him, they would not prosecute him to the same extent that they otherwise would.

The two men argued for a while. Then Grubeshov told of how, at times, when a Jew was hung, a dog was hung next to him to show how hated they were. Yakov shot back that only a dog would do that. For the remark, he was slapped in the face with a ruler. Then the guards, who had been standing behind him, beat him on the head. Grubeshov told them to stop. Grubeshov then made Yakov a promise. He would see to it that Yakov stayed in prison until he rotted. And that eventuallyYakov would beg him to let him confess to this murder.


In this chapter, the prosecutorís suit is green.



Yakov knew that he must control his mouth. He was sent to Kiev Prison. The warden there greeted him by calling him a "blood-drinker," and telling him that he did not want him there. After Yakov was given prison clothing, he thought that he would be getting a haircut, but when the official checked, he found that not to be the case. The barber complained that he was one of the privileged ones. Yakov yelled that his hair should be cut, but, of course, what he said made no difference.

Yakov was taken to a large cell that was crowded with, maybe, twenty-five prisoners. It was referred to as the thirty-day cell. After a month the prisoners would go on trial or go to some other cell. There was a wooden platform along the wall. It was a centimeter above the floor. That was where prisoners slept.


Throughout the book, prison officials want Yakovís hair to be long. The officials seem to think that long hair makes him look more religious, and they want him to have that appearance. But near the end, that will change.



Dinner was brought to the cell in buckets. It was thin cabbage and barley soup. There was a spoon for each of the three buckets. The prisoners gathered around each pail took turns taking ten spoonfuls. They were then expected to pass the spoon to the next fellow. One pail had half of a dead mouse in it. Another had cockroaches in it. The prisoners also had tea without sugar. Some, whose names were on a list received bread. Yakov Bok was not on the list.

The fixer spent most of the night pacing in the dark. The next morning he could not eat the gruel that was also served in buckets.

Because the men seemed to be talking about him, Yakov feared that they had heard the accusations against him. He then heard from one of the men that the men wanted to know why his hair wasn't cut. Yakov himself did not know the reason. Their suspicion that he was a stool pigeon was wrong, he told the man. And, he said that he separated himself from the others because he had never been to prison before this.

Later, another man, named Fetyukov, asked what the accusation against him was. Yakov told him that it was too complicated. He added that he was innocent. Fetyukov told Yakov that he himself had stabbed a man to death, but had been too drunk to remember.

Fetyukov, with assistance from two other prisoners, hit Yakov on the head with a stick that had been hidden in his clothing. The blow knocked him unconscious.

When Yakov came to, an old man with broken glasses told him to hide the fact that he was injured. The old man was the one who emptied the excrement buckets. The man who, earlier, had asked Yakov if he was a stool pigeon, said that he had told Fetyukov that he was a squealer.

The guards came. Yakov knew better than to draw their attention to his injury. To do so would have meant a second, harsher beating. One of the policemen wanted to tell "the Jew" that he had been put on the bread list. In doing so, he told the other prisoners that Yakov was Jewish.

Fetyukov heard the guard and asked Yakov if he was the Jew who murdered the child. Yakov told him that the accusation was untrue. The chatter in the cell increased. Fetyukov told him that he hit him because they were checking to find out if he would report it to the guards. He hadn't even known that Yakov was a Jew at that time. Then, Fetyukov recalled that he was once, when he was a boy, apprenticed to a Jew. That Jew would never have harmed that child. The man who, earlier, thought that Yakov was a squealer admitted that he had made a mistake. Soon after that the interest of the prisoners turned elsewhere.

Fetyukov told Yakov that eventually people would know the truth. The fixer wondered what would happen until then.


Fetyukov is mentioned again in Chapter VI, Part 1.

The worker with broken glasses is also mentioned again in Chapter VI, Part 1.


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