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The Assistant by Bernard Malamud-Free Online Study Guide/Summary Notes
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STUDY GUIDE / CHAPTER SUMMARY FOR THE ASSISTANT

CHAPTER EIGHT

Summary

Morris doesn't care if he ever sees the store again. Then he decides that he must go down into the store immediately. If he was downstairs, he could work on improving the situation.

Morris asks Ida if she has been watching Frank. She questions why she should. Morris doesn't want him near Helen. When Ida tells him that is no longer a problem, Morris wants to know what happened. Ida tells him that, like him, Helen does not open up to her.

When Morris descends the stairs, Frank lights the heater. Morris tells Frank that he still wants him to leave. Frank confesses to being one of the robbers. After the admission of his guilt, Frank mentally hears "a treeful of birds" singing. Then, Morris says that he already knew that he was one of the robbers. But, he wants to know who the other robber was. Frank tells him that it was, Ward Minogue. This causes Morris to pity Detective Minogue.

Frank begs Morris to let him stay. He will pay for his room and board. He has the money to do this because he has a separate job working at night. Morris is firm. Frank cannot stay. Frank accepts the decision. When he returns Nick's radio, in response to Tessieís question, he tells her that he does not know where he will go.


With Frank gone, the situation is worse. Ida suggests an auction. Morris wants to sell. Ida doesn't think they will find a buyer. Helen suggests that Morris work for someone else.

Ida asks Karp about Podolsky, the man who was interested in the store in the past, before he got sick. Karp inquires about Helen. Ida suggests that Louis contact her. When Karp mentions Frank, Ida lets him know that Frank is gone. Karp says that perhaps he will call Podolsky. And he does. When he arrives, Morris is honest with him about the store's condition, but says that, with effort, Podolsky can make a decent living. Ida, like Karp, thinks that Morris should be close-mouthed about the business. She tries to stop Morris's mouth. Morris remembers Karp's suggestion that he keep quiet. But, he tells Podolsky that he will sell for fifteen to sixteen hundred cash. For a long period no one came into the store and finally, without saying anything, Podolsky left.

The following morning, Morris goes job-hunting. The first stop is at Charlie Sobeloff's place. Sobeloff was once Morris's partner. The partnership and the store they had were originally Sobeloff's idea. Sobeloff had another idea as well. He would be the accountant for the business. Two years later, two years during which Morris did not look at the books, the business collapsed. Morris lost everything. Sobeloff raised enough cash to repurchase the store and was soon back in business. Over time Morris's hatred of Sobeloff has dissipated. And, in his time of need, he decides to turn to him. But, he does not tell Ida, whose feelings toward Sobeloff have not changed.

As Morris hurries past Karp's liquor store he sees five customers and wishes that the store would burn down.

Morris finds that Sobeloff's Self-Service Market is very large. He refuses to envy Sobeloff, but does regret that he himself has so little money with which to help Helen. Morris pictures himself asking Sobeloff for a job, Sobeloff giving him a part time job as a cashier, then telling him at the end of a shift that he is a dollar short. Morris walks away from the front of the store without going inside.

Next, Morris goes to an employment agency and finds that they have nothing for him. Then, he applies for a waiter's job, but finds that it has already been filled. At another agency, he is told to go home.

Morris goes by bus to see Breitbart. When he arrives at the peddler's home, only his son is there. After resting, Morris leaves. The next stop is at Al Marcusís apartment. Marcus is in the hospital, so Morris goes home.

That night a man stops by the store and offers to burn it down for a price. This way, Morris could collect on the insurance. The man would use a strip of celluloid to start the fire and no one would be able to tell that it was intentionally set. Morris will not agree.

The following night when Morris knows everyone is out of the building, he looks for a celluloid collar that he remembers having. He cannot find the collar, but finds some celluloid negatives instead. He goes downstairs and decides to start a fire in the air shaft. Immediately after starting it, he wants to put out the fire, but can't. As he tries, Frank comes up behind him and helps. After the fire is out, Frank pleads with Morris to take him back. Morris refuses.

Notes

When, upon confessing his part in the robbery, Frank momentarily hears birds singing, it is a reference to Saint Francis's life, indicating the influence that stories about the saint have had on Frank.

Frank tells Tessie Fuso that he does not know where he will go. When Morris starts the fire in the dumbwaiter, Frank is there to save him. It appears that Frank did not go anywhere outside the building. He must have stayed in the cellar, like he did for a time, in the past.

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