The Fixer Essay Research Paper In the

The Fixer Essay, Research Paper

In the novel, The Fixer, the author, Bernard Malamud,

presents to us a poor Jewish handyman living in Russia

during the early 1900’s, before the Russian

revolution had begun. Destroyed by his wife’s

disavowal, Yakov Shepsovitch Bok leaves his shtetl in

search of opportunities for a better life. After a

few months of desperate searching, Yakov sneaks out of

the ghetto to look for work among the goyim. As he

searches the streets, he stumbles upon a man who lay

drunk on the floor. Yakov immediately recognizes a pin

on the man’s coat as belonging to the anti-Semite

organization called the Black Hundreds. Putting his

doubts behind him, Yakov decides to help the fat

Russian. Not aware of Yakov’s origins, the Russian

offers him a job as a reward. The job, however,

requires him to live in a district prohibited to Jews.

Out of desperation, Yakov agrees. Only a few months

later, honest, hard-working Yakov, is caught.

Authorities had found out he is a Jew. Less than a

week before that, however, an awful murder had been

committed and they accuse Yakov of being the murderer,

when in fact the true killer is the young boy’s own

mother. Yakov is charged with murder for religious

purposes. They believe the Jewish community needed

the blood to bake into the matzos for Passover as a

symbol of the remembrance of the crucifixion of


Yakov Bok is Jewish man in his early thirties. He

describes himself as “ a fixer by trade, it’s a poorer

trade than most, and formerly for a short time I was a

soldier in the Imperial Army. In fact, to tell you

the truth, I’m not a religious man, I’m a

freethinker.” He believes he has had such bad luck,

that it is useless to pray to G’d, and therefore he is

more of an atheist, or a freethinker, than he is a

Jew. He states he is a Jew only “by birth and

nationality,” though nobody understands what is meant

by that. To the Russians he is legally a mere Jew. At

one point Yakov says to himself “I’m Yakov Fixer…

the kind of man who finds it perilous to be alive.

One thing I must learn is to say less-much less, or

I’ll ruin myself. As it is I’m already ruined.”

During his first few months in prison, Yakov does not

seem to get accustomed to the hardships. As time

passes him by, however, he grows used to life in a

prison cell, but it only gets worst. As the novel

unfolds, Yakov becomes extremely weak and thin and he

looses the trifling faith that was still left in him.

Throughout the novel, the main idea is very obvious.

It is Yakov falsely accused of the murder of a young

boy in order to drain his blood for the baking of the

Passover matzos. The theme of anti-Semitism in

Russia during the time of pogroms and of Tsar Nicholas

the second is a universal theme presented to us as the

book unravels. It is evident that if Yakov had not

been born of the Jewish faith, he would not have been

charged with the murder of Zhenia Golov. He was

being used only as an example to the three million

Jewish residents of Russia. He was being used as a


The meaning of the title The Fixer, chosen by

Malamud, has a very literal meaning, however it

symbolizes a much more profound thought. Literally,

the title only refers to the main character of the

novel, who makes a living as a fixer, or handyman. It

is a very simple title of a book about a very simple

man who has been falsely accused of a very complicated

murder. He was only “Yakov the fixer from a small

town in Pale, an orphan boy who had married Raisl

Shmuel and had been deserted by her.” Not a liar and

a murderer of young children. He made the “stupid

deception” of lying that his name was Yakov Ivanovitch

Dologushev, instead of Yakov Shepsovitch Bok . This

minute lie led him to land a job which in turn forced

him to live in the Luskianovsky district which was

prohibited to Jews. He unsuccessfully tries to

convince the Prosecuting Attorney of his innocence

regarding the murder “I swear to you, I am innocent of

any serious crime. The worst I am guilty of is

stupidity-of living in the Luskianovsky without

permission… but certainly, not of any serious

crimes.” And for a small uncomplicated lie he is

charged with a huge, very complicated murder, thus

proving to us how the title has a more profound

meaning than is literally intended. The title is also

very ironic. The man is a fixer, and yet he is not be

able to fix anything regarding his unlucky life.

The book The Fixer, by Bernard Malamud, is a powerful

novel describing the anti-Semitism felt throughout

Russia during the pre-revolution era. It is a

historical novel which teaches us what it was like to

be a Jew living in Russia. It is important not only

to better understand Russian history but to try to

better understand anti-Semitism, which led to the

killing of many innocent lives. It is the

anti-Semitism that caused World War two and the death

of six million Jews. Anti-Semitism was also a major

cause of the Zionist movement which resulted in the

formation of the state of Israel in 1948.


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