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The Assistant

Summary

Chapter Ten

Summary Chapter Ten

The store does well until after Christmas when times get tough. Frank still gives Ida ninety bucks per month, because he knows Helen has started night school and needs the money. Frank is so poor his clothes have holes in them. Working all night and all day wearies him, as does his concerns about Nat Pearl and Helen. Sometimes when they get home from a date, he listens to them kissing in the hallway. Since he feels miserable, he starts cheating some customers and climbs up the dumbwaiter to spy on Helen. After an unknown amount of time, he stops his dishonest behavior completely and becomes totally honest again.

Coming home late one night, Helen passes by the restaurant where Frank works nights and sees him asleep on the counter. She suddenly realizes what he has been doing to support her mother and her, and that he has changed. Helen decides that since Frank's heart has changed, he owes her nothing even though he once did her wrong. Helen stops in the store the next day to thank him. He proposes that she attend day college next semester and that he pay for it. She agrees to think about it. That night when she comes in with Nat, he hears them scuffle slightly and then hears Helen slap Nat. Nat calls her a bitch and leaves.

One morning after hearing the Polish woman rap on the door, Frank wakes to sell her a roll. He sees Nick Fuso, a new father, coming back to the building with a shopping bag from a different grocery. Breitbart soon appears carrying his light bulb boxes and Frank makes him some tea. Frank only has six customers all morning. He takes out the Bible, which he has been reading, and starts thinking about Saint Francis. He pictures Saint Francis take the wooden rose he once had carved for Helen and turn it into a real rose before giving it back to her.

One day in the following April, Frank goes to the hospital and has himself circumcised. The pain enrages and inspires him. After Passover, he becomes a Jew.

Analysis

This chapter brings the conclusion of the plot and in doing so brings about Frank Alpine's final evolution of character. Frank's final realization of character evokes his two mentors: Saint Francis of Assisi and Morris Bober. Like both of them, Frank has become truly poor and honest. Frank works his fingers to the bone trying to innovate new ways to make the grocery profitable. Frank stops spending money on himself and his clothes become threadbare. At one point in this chapter, Frank grows distressed and falls back into a pattern of spying on Helen and cheating people. But just as this wave of dishonesty came, so too does it stop. Frank suddenly is honest again, with little or no effort. The innate goodness that he has managed to draw up in his soul has overcome his darkness. He no longer cheats or spies. He is honest and poor, but good and spiritually satisfied.

In addition to becoming honest, Frank's character blossoms because he finally learns how to truly love. Frank's labor at the grocery is all undertaken because of his love for Helen. While only his physical desire for her flesh drove his loving activities in the beginning of the novel, only his pure desire for her soul drives his activities in the end. His momentary lapse into lust, as seen by his spying on her, disappears like his dishonesty because his sense of true love now thrives and overpowers the less noble physical needs. Frank now can control his amorous emotions. In his final vision of the novel, his previously unrealized fake love, as represented in his wooden flower, becomes true love as Saint Francis himself transforms the wood into a living rose. Frank's love has grown fresh and pure and he is now ready to have a sincere relationship with Helen.