The Assistant | Study Guide

Bernard Malamud

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The Assistant | Section 3 : Frank's Job | Summary



Frank settles in well at the store, bringing in a great deal of money for them. He also starts to take notice of Helen and tries to find ways to be alone with her. At the end of his second week, Frank is paid five dollars, but he has also been taking money from the register. He feels sorry and goes to meet Ward Minogue, revealing that it was the two of them who robbed the store in the first place. Frank tells Ward that he is working there to clear his conscience, but Ward encourages him to seduce Helen, whom Frank later watches as she takes a shower.


Frank has established himself to the Bobers as a reliable and helpful young man who has come to their aid when they need him the most. But in this section, it becomes clear that Frank is not telling the Bobers the whole truth. We learn that he played a role in the robbery that injured Morris, and that he has been stealing from the register despite his desire to make amends for his past. Frank is able to come up with excuses for his stealing, but he understands that he is still not making things right. When he meets with Ward Minogue, however, the dynamic seen between them during the robbery comes to the fore. Ward is cruel, anti-Semitic, and misogynistic, while Frank is trying hard to get back on the right moral path.

In this section we also start to see Frank's growing desire for Helen, whom he watches take a shower. The act is an important one; it speaks to Frank's simultaneous attraction to Helen and his sense of entitlement to her. She is unaware that she is being watched, and this violation is something that Frank does not consider wrong. This scene is a reminder that Frank's moral compass is deeply flawed and that simply wanting to do the right thing is not enough to get someone on the right track.

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