During the early 1900’s, the world underwent an antisemitic coup that was treated differently throughout all countries. Life for Jews in Eastern Europe, during the early 1900’s, was characterized by oppression, segregation, limited occupations, and extreme racism. They were not allowed to marry out side their race and people were willing to show their hatred (anti-Semitism) via decals or pins such as the two-headed eagle of the Black Hundreds on Mr. Maximovitch. In his novel The Fixer, Malamud tells the story of Yakov Bok, a Jew born in Russia during the very early 1900’s. Aspiring to a good future, he leaves his home for Kiev to start a new life. While living here he must hide his cultural background, even though he doesn't believe in God anymore, to protect any chance of a promising future. It is when he is blamed for a murder that he struggles to find God again and begins to question his life choices. The major themes of the book are segregation, struggle with religion, striving for freedom, and extreme racism, which are expressed through Yakov Bok’s life.
In The Fixer, Malamud recreates the story of Mendel Belis, a Jew who is living in Keiv and is framed for the murder of a young christian boy. The book is written in a limited third person view as it follows the life of Yakov Bok. He is a poor Jew barley getting buy on his work who leaves his home in hope to make a newer and better life in Kiev. Yakov expresses his goal to his farther-in-law when he says “All I have now in this miserable town is a beggarly existence. Now, I'll try Kiev. If I can live there decently, that's what I’ll do. If not, I’ll make sacrifices, save up, and head to Amsterdam for a boat to America. To sum it up, I have little, but I have plans” (Malamud 13). He wants to physically leave his past life behind for he leaves his home for nothing and dumps his religious goods into the Dnieper river, just before entering Kiev.
Yakov’s goal is not as easy as he would have hoped for because of the racism towards Jews, the complete separation of Jewish people and Christians in terms of living and ability of work, and his constant fear of being exposed for his true identity. When Zinaida, Mr. Maxmiovitch’s daughter, is trying to seduce Yakov, he keeps bring up this constant fear of being caught when he contemplates sleeping with her, “Things are bad enough, so why make them worse? This isn’t for me, I’m not the type, and the sooner I tell her the better” (Malamud 52). He speaks more before going into room about how if “there’s a mistake to make I’ll make it” (Malamud 52). This problem he has limits himself from actually having his dream because he constantly fears exposure which eventually gets him caught and taken away to jail where most of the novel takes place and he truly discovers that his dream wont be as easy as he would have hoped.
Yakov Bok’s life-long confinement is central to the theme of segregation in the text. This is evident from his...