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Free Study Guide for The Fixer by Bernard Malamud

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Yakov was chained again. This second time seemed worse. Yakov beat the wall or slept. This continued for months.

Kogin told Yakov that it was April. One day he brought an old man into the cell who told Yakov about a ukase that the Tsar planned to issue to celebrate three hundred years of rule by the House of Romanov. Yakov could receive a pardon. But, he did not want to be pardoned for what he did not do. He wanted a trial instead. After attempting to persuade Yakov to accept the offer, the old man left, irritated. Berezhinsky paid him for his pigheadedness. He poured urine on his head and left him chained all night.

One summer day, Yakov was unchained. An hour later, the warden again brought him an indictment. The charge of ritual murder that had been omitted from the earlier indictment, the one that had been brought to him by mistake, was in this indictment. Marfa's insane lies were not in this one. The crime was described as Grubeshov had described it in the cave.

Yakov's description of himself as a freethinker was mentioned in the indictment and explained away as an attempt to hide the motive. This was followed by descriptions of Yakov as a religious man, as given by witnesses.

Yakov hoped that there would be a trial. He wanted the case against him to be strong enough to get him to trial, but no stronger than that.


In this chapter we see the reason why Yakov’s hair was not cut and why a prayer shawl and phylacteries were left in his cell. The guilt by association that the allegations against Yakov put on all Jews would be strengthened by making him appear to be a religious Jew.

A ukase is an edict or order of a Russian tsar.



One July night, on his way from a banquet, Grubeshov came to Yakov’s cell after Yakov was asleep and woke him up. He warned him about a public unmasking that would take place at the trial. Grubeshov told him about a visit from Marfa earlier that day. He had found Marfa to be sincere. He felt that a jury would feel the same way about her.

Grubeshov inadvertently indicated that there were people on the outside who stood with Yakov.

Grubeshov warned that, if he was not found guilty, punishment would still be given by the people. And, even if he was found guilty, there would be a bloodbath. This was all aimed toward getting Yakov to confess.

Yakov only wanted a trial. Grubeshov left.


This chapter shows how Grubeshov was almost frantic trying to get Yakov to confess.



Several weeks later, Yakov finally met with a lawyer, Julius Ostrovsky. He told Yakov that even the prosecution knew that he was innocent.

The lawyer also told Yakov that Shmuel had died. Yakov wept.

The lawyer described Kiev as medieval. Those who were not Jews were afraid of them. And, while fearing them, they also frightened the Jews.

Ostrovsky told Yakov that a journalist had discovered that Zhenia's father had left him five hundred rubles of life insurance. Marfa and her lover had immediately spent it. The newspaper that had published the account was shut down by the police.

Ostrovsky told Yakov about Sofya Shiskovsky. She had seen Zhenia's corpse in the bathtub at Marfa's place. After threats from Marfa, the whole family had moved to Moscow.

The lawyer told Yakov about some of the historical background propelling events in 1913. He told him about Russia's war with Japan in 1905, and the Revolution of 1905 that followed the war. The Tsar had granted concessions. A constitution had been granted. The Imperial Duma had come into existence. The Tsar did not like the results and neither did those who had benefited by the old ways. Since then, there had been steps backward.

Ostrovsky told Yakov that there were people on his side. There were people who could see that the charges were contrived.

Then Ostrovsky surprised Yakov by mentioning his lawyer like he wasn't his lawyer. When Yakov questioned this, Ostrovsky explained that originally he had been his lawyer. But, now he was a witness instead. Marfa had accused him of trying to bribe her. Suslov-Smirnov would be his lawyer.

Before he left, Ostrovsky told Yakov to be careful and to not allow himself to be provoked.


Sofya Shiskovsky was mentioned earlier, in Chapter IV, 2.


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