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Free Study Guide for The Fixer by Bernard Malamud

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The chains were removed from the wall.

Yakov had a lot to think about after his meeting with Ostrovsky.

Time passed. Yakov noticed. Autumn arrived, with winter on its way.

Yakov met with Suslov-Smirnov four times, but, he did not meet with Ostrovsky again because he was not allowed a return visit. Like Ostrovsky, Suslov-Smirnov told Yakov to always be careful. After four visits, he did not return and Yakov could not find out the reason. Yakov lost his hope. It was then that the warden told Yakov that his trial would soon begin.


The fact that Yakov was again noticing the passage of time was good. For a while, at a low point for him, the passage of time made no difference to him. That was in Chapter VIII, 1.



Yakov had trouble sleeping the night before the trial was to begin. He feared an attempt on his life. He planned to yell if he was attacked in the hope that someone would report that the attack had taken place. Many visitors came by the cell that night. The Tsar did, Bibikov did, and, Zhenia did, among others.

The day of the trial began with as trip to the bathhouse. Then, a barber shaved Yakov's head. He was given his own clothes to wear. Yakov refused to eat although both guards told him that the food was safe.

Cossack guards took Yakov from the cell to the warden's office. Reaching the warden's office, the captain of the Cossack guards searched Yakov. He then gave the warden a receipt for the prisoner. But, Warden Grizitskoy first wanted to speak to Yakov without the Cossack guards present. He told Yakov that he should have confessed. Now, he would probably spend his life in jail, he said.

The warden opened the door for the captain of the Cossack guards to take the prisoner. Instead, the Deputy Warden entered and asked that Yakov be returned to the cell for a search. The captain said that he had searched him and he was now in the captain's custody. Yakov complained. The Cossack captain ordered Yakov back to the cell. Yakov realized that he needed to be careful. He went to the cell. The Deputy Warden ordered him to undress in the cell. The Deputy Warden, Kogin and Berezhinsky entered the cell while the Cossack captain and the escort guard waited outside the cell. Yakov was quiet, but angry. The Deputy Warden ordered him to also remove his undershirt which he had been allowed to keep on during all previous searches. Yakov's anger exploded and he asked why he should. The Deputy Warden threatened to tear it off of him. Yakov tore it off himself and threw it into the Deputy Warden's face. The Deputy Warden drew his revolver. Kogin spoke up in Yakov's defense. The Deputy Warden threatened to cite him for insubordination. Kogin shot the Deputy Warden in the neck. The Deputy Warden then shot Kogin.


After all the fuss about letting his hair grow, they now shaved it.



Yakov left the prison with the Cossacks in a large armored carriage.

When the carriage reached the business district, Yakov was astonished by the number of people who were along the route. Some of the Russians seemed to be against him, but most were impassive.

At one point on the route, a bomb exploded. Yakov feared for his life, but escaped injury. One of the Cossack guards who had been riding on the left side of the carriage was not so lucky. He lost a foot. A Cossack colonel took his place and insisted that the carriage continue on its way.

Yakov, as they continued the journey, envisioned the Tsar in the carriage with him. The Tsar was naked. He referred to Jews as freemasons and revolutionaries. He accused them of bribing the police. He talked about his children, especially his son, and the fact that his son was a haemophiliac. His love for his children made it more difficult for him to forgive the crime against the child, Zhenia. The Tsar asked Yakov if he, too, was a father. Yakov's reply was "With all my heart."

The Tsar smoked a cigarette wrapped in green paper. He said that he was Tsar because he had to be, not because he wanted to be.

The Tsar suggested that suffering had surely taught Yakov the meaning of mercy. Yakov corrected him. Suffering had taught him, instead, that suffering was useless. He added that life brings enough suffering without more being piled on by the state. The Tsar, he said, could have done better. Then, Yakov shot the Tsar in the heart.

The vision disappeared. The back wheel on the left side of the carriage seemed to wobble. That was the side where the explosion had occurred.

Yakov thought that a man cannot be unpolitical, especially a Jew.

As the carriage continued on its way, Yakov noticed that some Jews that he passed were weeping. And, they knew his name.


Again, the color green is mentioned. This time it is the color of the paper wrapping the Tsar’s cigarette in Yakov’s vision.

“Unpolitical” has the same meaning as “apolitical.”


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