The Fixer Essay Research Paper Malamud

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The Fixer Essay, Research Paper Malamud ‘ s The Fixer is a novel which was written in a time of extreme prejudice and inequality. Malamud fought this struggle in a very powerful way – through writing. Perhaps the strongest styles he used to fight against the Jewish oppression are irony, and the use of dreams and hallucinations. Irony is an overpowering force in Bernard Malamud’s The Fixer. The sequence of events which Yakov Bok goes through makes the entire novel ironic. The chief irony of the novel lies in the fact that what Bok is attempting to escape, he cannot escape. To understand the irony in the novel, it is necessary to examine two major events in the circular life of Yakov Bok. Bok is attempting the escape his life in the shetl. He is wrongly persecuted for a

ritual murder and attempts to escape his physical and mental torture. In each case, Bok is attempting to escape his Jewishness. The novel has an overall ironic tone. Bok leaves the shetl in which he has lived the majority of his life to go to Kiev. In Kiev Bok hopes to find opportunities for work and education. Mainly, though, Bok seeks relief from his earlier shame of being cheated on by his wife. While in the shetl Bok sees himself as a victim of his wife’s barrenness. The irony lies in the fact that that even after escaping the shetl and being in a different kind of hell, prison, Bok’s life in the shetl comes back to haunt him. Bok learns of a child that Raisl has had with her lover and gives his bitter sentence of “a black cholera upon her” ( Malamud 254 ). The one

thing that might have given him happiness in his life before has now gone to someone else. This event brings Yakov shame that he could not father a child with Raisl while another man could. Thus, the problems of the shetl which Bok has tried so desperately to escape have come back to haunt him once again. Bok’s life is very circular. Later in the novel, Raisl visits Yakov in prison in an attempt to end her own ostracism in the shetl. Yakov could here exact some kind of revenge upon Raisl by allowing her to be ostracized for having an illegitimate child the way he was ostracized for being cheated on. However, Yakov eventually signs the document which says “I declare myself to be the father of Chaim, the infant son of my wife Raisl Bok… Please help the mother and child, and

for this, amid all my troubles, I’ll be grateful” ( 262). Bok, now having on paper what he once wanted most, a son, cannot enjoy it. The second event which exemplifies the ironic and circular nature of Yakov Bok’s life is his attempt to escape his Jewishness. In leaving the shetl Bok shaves his beard and cuts his earlocks, and on the ferry across the river to his new hell drops his prayer things into the water. Bok is not only attempting to turn his back on his own history, he is attempting to turn his back on the history of his race. The poor fixer should have known better, for he is arrested for the ritual murder of a young Christian child. His accusers believe that Bok used the blood of this boy for the making of matzos. While in prison Bok realizes that “being born a

Jew meant being vulnerable to history, including its worst errors” (Malamud 206). Furthermore, the prosecuting attorney, Grubeshov, tells Bok: A Jew is a Jew, and that’s all there is to it. Their history and character are unchangeable. Their nature is constant. This has been proved in scientific studies by Gobineau, Chamberlain and others. Our peasants have a saying that a man who steals wears a hat that burns. With a Jew it is the nose that burns and reveals the criminal that he is. (130) Here the irony partly lies in the fact that Bok is treated so badly because of something which he was in the first place trying to escape. The other irony is that Bok decides to defend his Jewish heritage to his captors. He is offered his freedom if he will denounce the Jews. He refuses,