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The Assistant

Summary

Chapter Ten

Summary Chapter Ten

Helen changes in this chapter as well, also growing in her ability to accurately perceive and to love another. In the beginning of the chapter, her opinion of her father starts to change when she awakes from a dream and decides that she must finish college for him. But it is not until the end of the chapter, when she sees Frank Alpine sleep at his night job, that Helen finally understands. When she sees Frank, she understands the extent of his efforts to sustain them. By truly by seeing Frank's dedication, what she is finally able to understand is her father and his related morality. Morris's goodness has touched Helen through Frank's expression of it and it transforms her. Helen's awakening can be seen in her almost immediate shift of behavior. While she had shunned Frank, she now thanks him for his efforts. While she had entertained Nat Pearl despite his dishonorable intentions, she suddenly turns against his advances resulting in him calling her a "bitch." While there is not a strict indication that she and Frank will get back together when the novel closes, the text leaves a strong suggestion of the possibility.

Finally, it should be noted that Malamud indicates Frank's transformation on the level of text as well as on the level of plot. The final section of the novel is almost a mirror image of the novel's opening. The identity of the grocer has changed from Morris Bober to Frank Alpine but the events are the same: the Polish woman buys a roll; Nick Fuso shops at the other store and the grocer feels bad; Breitbart drinks a cup of tea. Frank now reacts to all of these circumstances just as Morris once did. He has become Morris almost completely. To further indicate Frank's transformation, Malamud makes it so that Frank even occasionally thinks with the Yiddish phrasing that characterized Morris's speech. Frank also is now adept at using Yiddishisms with the visiting merchants. Frank now lives in the prison of the grocery, but he has grown spiritually. Frank, like Morris, now can live and suffer in life with both pain and pleasure. To complete his transformation, he converts to Judaism just after Passover, the Jewish New Year, and he begins again. His conversion opens the door for his future unification with Helen Bober, while fully conferring on him the status of Morris Bober's student and foster son.