Separation of the Past and Present: Malamud's Integral Use of Setting in The Fixer
"Life is a tragedy full of joy." The view advanced by Bernard Malamud, while somewhat morbid, is mirrored in his life's work. To express the futility of life in Russia, Malamud creates a setting which seems entirely removed from this century. Through his use of a foreign setting and different time period, he reinforces the confusion and anguish of the protagonist, Yakov Bok. The separation he creates between the present and the past enables Malamud to present a series of events that, were they set in a more current time or place, would be incomprehensible to the reader. By setting his story in Russia during the early twentieth century, Malamud portrays a social and political reality without fighting against the disbelief of his readers.
The harsh climate of Russia and the conditions of his confinement continually challenge Yakov's tenacity and will to survive. This natural conflict enhances the central struggle between Yakov and the Russian legal system. During his imprisonment, Yakov contends with bone-chilling cold as well as extreme heat. "Time was summer now, when the hot cell stank heavily and the walls sweated" (215). Against this heat he is provided little protection and no ventilation; even...
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