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The Assistant

Bernard Malamud

Chapter Six, Part two

Chapter Six, Part One

Chapter Six, Part two, page 2

page 1 of 2
Summary

Julius Karp and Morris Bober have spoken infrequently since the robbery, because Morris decided, in his recovery, that he liked Karp less than he thought. As Morris ignores Karp, Karp decides to approach him. Karp likes Morris to like him, but he finds that Morris is unfortunate and inept. Karp sees the robbery as Morris's own fault, especially as Karp had warned him. Furthermore, Morris is just unlucky. Hiring Frank Alpine was a bad idea, for example, since Karp knows that Frank is a thief from the money Frank spends in the neighborhood. While all clerks steal slightly, Karp did once and knows his son does from him, Karp condemns Frank for doing so from Morris. Furthermore, he has seen Frank hanging around Helen and thinks that having a "goy" around a Jewish girl is a bad idea. Karp decides that it is his duty to warn Morris.

Karp also has his own motivations for speaking to Morris. He wants his son, Louis, to marry Helen. This would help Helen, because she is poor, and after the marriage, Karp and his son could help fix up Morris's store. Once it was improved and Karp stopped the lease of the other grocer, Karp could effectively be a silent partner in Morris's business. Karp only worries that Helen will not agree to the marriage. He knows that she was interested in Nat Pearl but that Nat pushed her away because she was too poor and although he will be a lawyer, he needs to find a girl with more money.

When Karp knows that Frank has left the store, he drops in on Morris. Karp is surprised to find that Morris's business is going pretty well. Morris tells Karp that Frank has brought customers to him, probably because he is a gentile. Karp feels distressed at Morris's affection for Frank and wants to set the record right. He explains quickly that Morris's success is not due to Frank, but to the fact that the other grocer, Schmitz, has been sick and keeping his store shut for part of the day. In fact, Schmitz just sold his business to two Norwegians, who were going to reopen it as a gourmet deli. Morris seems devastated at this news. When Karp tries to mention Louis and Helen and Frank, Morris roars and Karp runs from the store.

After a painfully contemplative night, Morris decides that he must try and sell the store, but until he does Frank needs to stay with him to help him fight the Norwegians. Frank himself had a guilty night considering all the money that he has stolen from Morris. He has kept careful track of it, one hundred and forty dollars, and decides to pay it all back. The next day, Frank slips six dollars back into the register. Soon after, Helen telephones and tells Frank that although she is going to see Nat tonight, she wants to meet him later in the park. Frank agrees, but realizes that he has no money to take Helen out. When a customer comes in, Morris steals a dollar from the sale and Morris catches him. Frank confesses and tries to explain, but Morris, brokenhearted, says that Frank has to go. Morris hands him fifteen dollars for the week and orders him to leave his building.

Helen feels happy and excited that night fully aware of being in love with Frank. As she rides with Nat, she is distracted thinking about Frank and talks coolly to Nat. When Nat asks her if it is because of the "dago" that she is seeing, she becomes icy and unsociable.

When Helen gets to the park, she cannot find Frank. As she waits, a drunk man approaches her and introduces himself as Ward Minogue. Helen feels afraid of Ward, due to his old reputation, but lingers for a moment. He tells her that he knows Frank. As she tries to step away, he grabs her, muffles her scream, and tries to push her down. Helen kicks him in the groin and gets away, even though her dress is ripped and her face has been struck. She then hears a groan from Ward and sees Frank hitting him. Frank picks her up and she feels overjoyed to be saved, but then Frank proceeds to feverishly kiss her despite her insistence that they wait. After he has sexual intercourse with her, she curses him as an uncircumcised dog.

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