In the book The Assistant, Frank Alpine is the most important character. The book mainly revolves around Frank's change from a dishonest character that lies and steals, to a character that becomes as honest and caring as his teacher, Morris Bober. From the first chapter you can see how generous and kind Morris Bober is. He opens his store every day at six o' clock just to sell a 3 cent roll. Also in the first chapter Morris gives food credit to a drunken woman even though he knows he will never be repaid.
When you first meet Frank he is secretly living in Morris Bober's cellar. He is stealing rolls and milk every morning from Morris, but the author makes you feel sorry for him. You believe that he is a good man at heart, but is just having a rough time. When Morris finds him in the cellar instead of calling the police and kicking him out, he feeds him and offers him to stay.
Frank begs Morris for forgiveness and offers to help him with the store for no pay.
Still as the book goes on Frank seems to be a good man. When Morris falls on the ice, Frank carries him in and helps keep the store open. The first day Frank runs the store he brings in 15 dollars, which is much more than the store had been earning. Soon after he helps Morris with the store, he starts stealing money from Morris. Frank was also one of the people involved in the robbing of Morris in the beginning of the book.
Frank also has an obsession with Morris's daughter Helen. He goes and spies on her while she is in the shower. This proves that he cannot control his sexual desires, which is another downfall in his character. He does not know how to love at this point, and is just interested in her for physical reasons and sex.
Frank stays and helps Morris in the store. Morris believes business is getting better because Frank brings in the non-Jewish customers. As Frank works with Morris he also begins to learn Morris's morals. In chapter 4 Frank criticizes a man with terminal cancer, named Al Marcus. He thinks Al is weak because he doesn't make any money, but he keeps working and trying. According to Morris Al is strong because he insists on working and not giving up. This is one of Morris's lessons to Frank. Morris is trying to pass on his morals to Frank. Frank, at this point does not really understand fully, but is beginning to try and change his ways.
In the middle of the book Frank internally wants to be good. He wants to stop stealing, but he keeps taking change out of the cash register. He also wants to tell Morris that he was involved in the robbery, but he can't. Frank has good intentions, but never follows through with actions. This has been the way of life for Frank.
The climax of the book is in Chapter 6. In this chapter Frank cannot control his actions with Morris or with Helen. He has been struggling with both of these things, but he fails. Frank kept track of all the money he has stolen from Morris and wants to repay it. Once he added money he stole some of it back, and Morris catches him. Morris kicks him out of the store. Also in this chapter Frank rapes Helen. This is a symbol that he cannot control himself. This is by far the worst thing that he has done. Only by admitting this to himself can he truly be able to change.
Now Frank is beginning to change for the better. He saves Morris's life, when Morris leaves the gas on. This is the first good act Frank has done without thinking of some kind of reward. It was not to relieve his guilt or for sex, it was just on instinct. Frank then keeps the store open while Morris is in the hospital. Frank also puts in his own money, and he gets another job to be able to keep the store open. He also does something else good. He gives all his money to Carl's poor family. He felt sympathy toward them, even though he is also poor. Frank is now truly becoming like Morris.
Morris dies after shoveling snow one night. He was happy because he believed he had sold the store. He was just shoveling for the people walking on the sidewalk, not for his customers. This is an appropriate way for him to die because he was always going out of his way to do good for other people, without getting anything for himself.
By the end of the book Frank has become truly honest, and is much like Morris. Frank is working very hard to keep the store open, and he no longer cheats or steals. The end of the book is a lot like the beginning of the book, only the grocer is Frank not Morris. Frank opens the store early just to sell the three-cent roll to the Yiddish woman. Even though Frank is poor, he is happy inside. In the beginning of the book, Frank could not understand this concept, and he was shallow with materialistic things. Now at the end, he himself is just like Morris. He is now happy with what he has, and is self-satisfied. He even converted to Judaism. He is now able to love, and there might even be a future with him and Helen.