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Assistant, The

a novel by Bernard Malamud, published in 1957. A naturalistic novel, it focuses upon a Jewish grocer, Morris Bober, whose attempts to eke out a decent living in a small shop in New York are constantly running into failure. The Gentile Italian small-time thief Frankie Alpine holds up the shop and then, stricken with guilt, returns to act as Bober's assistant. After a period of despising Bober's patient suffering, Frankie slowly adopts the grocer's role when Bober dies of pneumonia. Frankie falls in love with Bober's daughter, Helen, who is initially repulsed by him, and after a brief relationship, they part. Frankie appears to become a substitute for Bober's role as he undergoes a purification through pain and suffering. The novel describes a man who searches for expiation for his crimes, but actually only compounds his guilt. This sharpens Malamud's general focus on the definition of the Jew as a suffering human with a good heart. The novel also explores the collision between emotional bonds and cultural barriers in its representation of the tensions and ambiguous connections between the Jews and Gentiles in New York.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Areley Kings (or arley regis) Worcestershire to George Pierce Baker Biography