Term Paper: Endurance and Suffering in Bernard

Pages: 10 (2837 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] Alpino's pursuit of Helen shows his lust for sex, but deep down we believe he really loves her. Helen represents to Alpino the light at the end of the tunnel to some degree; that if he makes a change only then will she be attainable.

Alpino eventually takes up Bober's outlook on life as his own. He confronts his own dishonesty and patches his life together. When he finally arrives at the conclusion that a calm and patient lifestyle may not make him rich but will grant him inner strength to survive, it is only then he can have Helen as his love.

Alpino's behavior represents the ironies Malamud presents as a life thesis. For one, the name Frank Alpino, reminicent of St. Francis of Assisi, wins Helen over, only to rape her; he is found out for being the thief as he is putting the money back in the register, only to lose everything after the confession which comes at the wrong time.

Frank is a typical Malamud anti-hero, a failure at everything he tries, even theft. But his final conversion to Judaism, a religion that he despised before, represents his becoming a fully human being, one who accepts responsibility for his actions and takes on the role of provider and protector for his adopted family." 5.

Alpino's emergence as a righteous person -- one who learns self-control and who at the end of the story becomes transformed - is apparent to all, including Helen.

The stranger had changed, grown unstrange. That was the clue to what was happening to her [..] If he was hiding anything, she thought, it was his past pain, his orphanhood and consequent suffering. [..] She felt she had changed him and this affected her." 6.

With a few more turns of the pen, Alpino's character could have been presented as the anti-hero since he is without values and is a coward and is unaware and dishonest to boot. But From be seen as an anti-hero as he lacks some combination of traditional virtues and is often inept, cowardly, ignorant and dishonest. But Alpino brings out an empathy from the readers because the author has instilled a potential greatness in the street drifter.

While Alpino comes into the story with certain uneducated opinions, the grocery store symbolizes the place where his transformation occurs. He represents an assistant on several levels - to Ward Minogue in the robbery, to Helen and Ida and also to Bober. But by the end of the story he is much more than that. He has come to learn from the old man and has changed. By the end of the story, Alpino even gets circumcised and accepts Judaism.

One day in April Frank went to the hospital and had himself circumcised. For a couple of days he dragged himself around with a pain between his legs. The pain enraged and inspired him. After Passover he became a Jew." 7.

The interaction between Alpino and Bober is an interesting mentor-student or father-son relationship. And an unlikely relationship it certainly is. Alpino initially feels he can learn nothing from the old man and Bober, patient and willing to teach sees there is a lot of work, but miracles can happen.

A mixing myth with reality, a virtual monk, Morris Bober, a grocer, welcomes into his cell the itinerant ne'er-do-well, Frank Alpine, whose initials most surely stand for the wonder-worker, St. Francis of Assisi. In the strictness of his prose, Malamud reshapes the grocery into a kind of Jewish monastery, as Frank, the repentant, becomes Morris's disciple in training for a new vocation. At a certain point in his novitiate, Frank asks Morris: "Tell me why it is that Jews suffer so much? It seems to me that they like to suffer, don't they?" Morris answers: "Do you like to suffer? They suffer because they are Jews." Frank responds: "That's what I mean, they suffer more than they have to." Morris replies: "If you live, you suffer. Some people suffer more, but not because they want. But I think if a Jew don't suffer for the Law, he will suffer for nothing." "What do you suffer for Morris?" said Frank. "I suffer for you," Morris said calmly. "What do you mean?" asked Frank. "I mean you suffer for me." 8.

The other characters in the book ring true to the theme Malamud tries to convey. Karp, Morris' antagonist, seems to always catch a lucky break, even when his store burns down. He is the envy of Bober to some extent, but he is also the object of Bober's pity. Bober believes it is better to be suffering and poor than rich and obnoxious or conceited.

Helen represents the prize of Alpino if he comes around and also the pride of Bober and Ida. But she wants to be more than just the object of her parents' aspirations. She wants a solid boyfriend. She is tired of living the lives her parents have come to accept. However, her loyalty to the family is clear throughout, symbolizing the theme that Bober's goal of treating her well through his suffering is paying off.

Ida is the boss of the family. She shows an outsider's fear of the new world, yet wants the finer things the new world has to offer.

Ward Minogue is a threat to the existence Bober has carved for himself as depressing as that existence may appear to be. He is also a reminder to Alpino that his past won't go away that easily. Minogue can't even stand himself and is being eaten alive by his being while his victims feel his wrath. Minogue represents the waves in life that rock your ship.

Author Malamud has taken a keen interest in the relationship between perserverence and suffering. His father owned a grocery store in Brooklyn, often working longer than 16 hours a day. Malamud's father was the living model for Bober.

Malamud sums it up with Bober's speech:

For what I worked so hard for? Where is my youth, where did it go?' The years had passed without profit or pity. Who could he blame? What fate didn't do to him he had done to himself. The right thing was to make the right choice but he made the wrong. Even when it was right it was wrong. To understand why, you needed an education but he had none. All he knew was he wanted better but had not after all these years learned how to get it. Luck was a gift. Karp had it [..] Life was meager, the world changed for the worse. America had become too complicated. One man counted for nothing. There were too many stores, depressions, anxieties. What had he escaped to here?" 9.

The theme of his characters being caught up in their own fate runs throughout Malamud's works.

Malamud described the essential Malamud character as "someone who fears his fate, is caught up in it, yet manages to outrun it; he's the subject and object of laughter and pity."He acknowledged that sadness was one of his prime topics. "People say I write so much about misery," he said, but added, 'you write about what you write best.'" 10.

Bibliography

1. R. Keenoy & S. Brown, Babel Guide to Jewish Fiction: Paul & Company Publishers Consortium Inc., NYC. 360 West 31 Street New York, NY 10001

B. Malamud, The Assistant, Farrar Strauss and Giroux,1957, p. 249

M. Lubell, Yorktown High School, Yorktown, NY. As reprinted on the Exxon Masterpiece Theatre American Collection Educators' Website.

B. Malamud, The Assistant, Farrar Strauss and Giroux, 1957, p. 276

M. Lubell, Yorktown High School, Yorktown, NY. As reprinted on the Exxon Masterpiece Theatre American Collection Educators' Website.

B. Malamud, The Assistant, Farrar Strauss and Giroux, 1957, p. 157

B. Malamud, The Assistant, Farrar Strauss and Giroux,1957, p. 297

Taken from the archives of From temple Emanu-El in NYC as reprinted on the Web as http://www.emanuelnyc.org/bulletin/archive/35.html

B. Malamud, The Assistant, Farrar Strauss and Giroux, 1957, p.249

M.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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