Free Study Guide for The Fixer by Bernard Malamud|
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THE FIXER - PLOT SYNOPSIS / ONLINE NOTES
Sholem Aleichem wrote stories of the same time period and location as
this book. He wrote novels and many short stories. (Bernard Malamud, the
author of this book also wrote many short stories.) Sholem Aleichemís
work, Fiddler on the Roof, was adapted
for the stage many years after his passing.
Yakov recalled his life with Raisl. He remembered the day he first saw her and her parents. That was the day they came to his town. It was also the day that Raisl's mother, Shmuel's wife, died. His wife's grave tied Shmuel to the area. At first, Yakov had avoided Raisl. He avoided her until shortly after he returned from the army. Her father was glad to see him when he visited their place. Yakov helped improve their hut. Sometimes he ate chicken dinner with them.
One day Yakov and Raisl had sex. Afterward, Raisl was unhappy about that. So, Yakov suggested that, before it happened again, they get married. Raisl wanted him to talk about love. She stated that she could not marry him unless he loved her. Her father talked to him. He told Yakov that she would be a good wife. Yakov said the word she wanted to hear and they got married. After they were married, Raisl wanted the three of them, her father included, to leave Russia. Yakov wanted to wait a few years, but she thought that they should leave sooner. If they did not leave then, they might not ever leave. But, despite her pushing, they did not leave. Years went by. Things stayed the same. They were still in the same town. They were still poor. And, they still had no children.
Raisl was depressed. And, she always complained. Around this time, Yakov read
more. Instead of going to bed with his wife, he read and then frequently
slept on a bench in the kitchen. His reading, including a pamphlet about
the Tsar's father, Nicholas I, convinced Yakov that Raisl's idea was correct.
They should leave Russia and do so soon. Concerns about how they could
survive if they left kept them where they were. Yakov was disappointed
that they had no children And, Raisl was now frantic because they had
no children. Yakov stopped sleeping with her. Soon, there was gossip in
the taverns about Raisl. Then she was gone.
Yakov maintained his sanity by taking mental trips outside the cell. For example, he would think that he was in the shtetl, at a friend's home. He would have a snack. He would do some work, some sawing and some hammering. In the evening, he would look at the sky above the shtetl. But, the bad part of these mental trips was when they stopped and he saw that he was in the cell.
Yakov kept track of the days using pieces of wood. The relatively larger pieces represented months and the smaller pieces represented days.
Yakov had several minutes of sunshine in one spot in his cell each day that there was sunshine. He valued those few minutes.
The fixer's only light after dark was from the fire in the stove during those times when he left the door ajar.
Time weighed heavily on Yakov. It weighed so heavily that, one cold winter day he tore off all his clothing. It tore easily because it was ready to fall apart. He was left that way. The guard did not light the stove. The Deputy Warden came by and told him that, by morning, he would be frozen stiff. The warden also came by. He said something about a naked Jew being indecent and left replacement clothing. Soon, Yakov was back to feeling the weight of time.
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Johnson, Jane. "TheBestNotes on The Fixer".
. 09 May 2017