The Assistant | Study Guide

Bernard Malamud

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The Assistant | Motifs


Saint Francis of Assisi

Saint Francis and his teachings about poverty are referenced throughout the book as reminders of Frank's desire to do good and of Morris's outlook on life. Frank, who grew up as an orphan, sees Saint Francis as an aspirational figure and wants to achieve the level of moral goodness he demonstrated. Morris is in some ways an embodiment of Saint Francis's ideas about living in poverty as a means to commune with God; thus, Morris's worldview and Frank's sense of morality are brought into alignment.


Yiddish words are repeated throughout the novel, a reminder of the Bobers's Jewish and immigrant identity. Along with their sometimes-flawed English, it also creates an in-group and out-group; Frank does not speak Yiddish, and therefore the use of Yiddish can act as a barrier between him and the Bobers. However, by the end of the novel, he is familiar enough with Yiddish to think in the language, which suggests his full assimilation into the Bobers's household.

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