The Assistant

by: Bernard Malamud

Chapter Seven

Morris comes home ten days after being in the hospital. Frank thinks of visiting him upstairs to talk, but does not. Frank rarely sees Helen, but they pass one day in the hall and she yells at him. He dreams that she tosses a white flower out of her icy window and he catches it, but as soon as he does he sees that the flower was never there and the window never actually opened.

Business in the store is getting much worse. The Norwegians keep having specials and Frank cannot match their prices. He gives all his savings to the store, keeps it open all night, and repaints the whole place, but still it makes no money. Helen still feels terrible about everything and decides to skip Betty Pearl's wedding as a result, claiming grief over her father's illness. Ida weeps daily in the kitchen over Morris's illness and their poverty.

One day, Frank decides that he could get money by collecting an old debt from Carl, the Swedish painter. Upon reaching Carl's house however, he finds the painter asleep. Carl's wife is dishing out a small quantity of food to very hungry children. Frank says nothing about the debt, but instead goes home, collects his last three dollars, and prepares to give it to Carl's wife. On his walk to Carl's however, he runs into Ward Minogue who says that he is sick. Frank gives Ward the three bucks for Frank's old gun, which Frank then promptly drops into the gutter.

Frank takes a book out about Judaism and reads all about the long struggle of the Jewish people. One night he stops in a restaurant and asks for a night job. He gets a job as a counterman working from ten pm to six am. He starts working all day and all night with small naps in between. At the end of each week, he adds his thirty-five dollars from the counterman job to the cash register. This money along with Helen's paycheck keeps the Bobers from going under.

One day, Frank decides to reach out to Helen. He carves a wooden flower and leaves it at Helen's door. She takes it to her room, but the next day he sees it in the garbage can on the street.

Analysis

In this chapter, which follows the storm that exploded in the last, all of the characters recover. Morris feels overcome by sadness. Helen understands her previous affection for Frank as disillusionment and feels disgusted at his treatment of her body. Frank cannot leave his room because of his despair in having his evil tendencies so overcome his burning desire to be good. It is in the pit of their despair, however, that the characters begin to change.