Free Study Guide for The Fixer by Bernard Malamud|
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STUDY GUIDE FOR THE FIXER BY BERNARD MALAMUD
14.) “...You can take my word--the time’s not far off when everything I say, we will do, because our Lord, who they crucified, wants his rightful revenge.” He dropped an oar and crossed himself.
Yakov fought an impulse to do the same. His bag of prayer things
fell with a plop into the Dnieper and sank like lead. Quote
from the boatman who takes Bok across the river p. 28 (p. 29)
Yakov will meet many people with beliefs like those of the boatman.
Yakov thinks that the boatman and others like him would not like to see
him with religious items. Later, when he is in prison, some of those who
want him to be guilty of the crime of which he will be accused will encourage
him to look and act Jewish.
15.) “Papa,” said his daughter, “we owe thanks to this good man
for assisting you after your accident. He found you face down in the snow.
If not for him you would have smothered.” Zinaida talking to her
father about Bok p.34 (p. 34 [the same page number])
Later, Zinaida (Zina) will speak against Yakov. Here we hear what she
has to say about him soon after they meet.
16.) “.....I light the samovar, read, write letters to old friends
and crochet. Papa says I make the most remarkable lace doilies. He marvels
at the intricacy of the patterns. But most of the time,” she sighed, “to
tell the truth, it can be dreadfully lonely.” Zinaida talking
to Bok p. 44 (p. 42)
Zinaida is describing to Yakov how she spends her evenings and how she
feels about it.
17.) Though beset by self-doubt and every kind of fear, Yakov
was thinking this might be his important chance. A few months’ experience
at this kind of work and other opportunities might open up for him. “I’ll
think it over carefully,” he said, but before Nikolai Maximovitch had
descended the stairs, he had accepted. p. 48 (p. 45)
It is understandable that Yakov would be eager to jump into what appears
to be, at last, a fortunate opportunity for him.
18.) “I didn’t know your condition. Excuse me, I had no idea.
You didn’t mention it, though I realize it’s personal.”
“But surely you know this is the safest time?” Zina said. “And there’s no inconvenience to speak of, the flow stops the minute we begin.” “Excuse me, some can but I can’t.”
He was thinking of his wife’s modesty during her period and until she had been to the baths, but could not say that to Zina.
“”Excuse me, I’d better be going.”
“I’m a lonely woman, Yakov Ivanovitch, she cried, have mercy a little!” but he was already dressing and soon left. Bok and Zinaida p. 52-53 (p. 49)
Later, Zinaida will describe their encounter in the bedroom as the equivalent of attempted rape.
19.) He would be tried because the accusation had been made, there
didn’t have to be another reason. Being born a Jew meant being vulnerable
to history, including its worst errors. Accident and history had involved
Yakov Bok as he had never dreamed he could be involved. The involvement
was, in a way of speaking, impersonal, but the effect, his misery and
suffering, was not. The suffering was personal, painful, and possibly
endless. p. 155 (p. 128)
Yakov, over time, will accept the fact that he represents all Jews.
He will accept the fact that his suffering is personal while his involvement
20.) “I am innocent,” the fixer shouted hoarsely.
“No Jew is innocent, least of all a ritual assassin. Furthermore, it is known you are an agent of the Jewish Kahal, the secret Jewish international government which is engaged in a subterranean conspiracy with the World Zionist Organization, the Alliance of Herzl, and the Russian Freemasons. We also have reason to believe that your masters are dickering with the British to help you overthrow the legitimate Russian government and make yourselves rulers of our land and people. We are not exactly naïve. We know your purposes. We have read the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion,’ and the ‘Communist Manifesto,’ and fully understand your revolutionary intentions!”
“I am not a revolutionist. I am an inexperienced man. Who knows
about such things? I am a fixer.” Bok and Prosecuting Attorney
Grubeshov speaking p. 226 (p. 186)
Contrast Grubeshov’s complicated accusations with Bok’s simple denial.
Yakov just wants to live his life in obscurity. He does not want the role
that is being thrust upon him.
21.) He was sick of their history, destiny, blood guilt.
Regarding Bok p. 227 (p. 187)
Bok knows that he is Jewish, but he does not want to be a symbol for all Jews. His own burdens are enough. He does not want “their” burdens.
22.) There was a man crying out in anguish in the dark, but God was on the other side of his mountain. Bok’s thoughts as he reads the New Testament (The man mentioned is Jesus) p. 232 (p. 190)
Yakov reads the New Testament that his jailer brings him. In it he discovers
that God was not helpful to Jesus in his time of need in a way similar
to how God seems not to be nearby when Yakov needs his help.
23.) “Dear Lord,” he prayed, “forgive this poor Hebrew for his
sins, and let him forgive us for sinning against him. ‘For if you forgive
men their trespasses, your heavenly father also will forgive you; but,
if you do not forgive their trespasses, neither will your father forgive
“I forgive no one.” A priest comes to Bok’s cell and prays p. 236 (p. 193)
Bok’s sharp retort must surely be partly in response to the priest’s suggestion that there is something for which Bok needs forgiveness.
24.) Where there’s no fight for it there’s no freedom. What is
it Spinoza says? If the state acts in ways that are abhorrent to human
nature it’s the lesser evil to destroy it. Bok’s thought
p. 335 (p. 271)
Prison seems to have strengthened Yakov. That is not what the authorities expected.
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Johnson, Jane. "TheBestNotes on The Fixer".
. 09 May 2017