"The Brooklyn Reader" Describe the uncomfortable collision of cultures between the chracters in "The Assistant."

Essay by healwaysliedUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, December 2003

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In Bernard Malamud's "The Assistant," the characters convey a sense of uncomfortable collision of cultures. The author examines their dissimilarities on issues such as their past, views on family life, displays of affection and their future. The differences between these two characters allow the writer to demonstrate that life is indeed what one makes of it.

First, Malamud depicts the contrasting feelings each character has for their past. He portrays Helen as a woman full of nostalgia in her perspective towards her younger days: "All the night I've been thinking about times we had on this beach when we were kids. And do you remember the parties? I suppose I'm blue that I'm no longer seventeen." Additionally, Helen defines youth as a person that is privileged "with all kinds of possibilities." In contrast, he speaks of Louis as a person who is very satisfied and content with his life up to this point: "You don't catch me giving away nothing for nothing.

I got my youth yet."

Next, the author describes the difference in their belief toward family values. He reveals Helen's uncertainty about what she wants out of life and her insecurity is apparent as she asks Louis: "What do you want out of your life?" Whereas Malamud clearly indicates that Louis knows exactly what he wants from life in his response to Helen's question: "The same thing I got - plus...Plus more, so my wife and family can have also." Additionally, the author further displays the clash of cultures between the two when Helen, in replying, asks what if his wife wanted "something different" than he did. Subsequently, the writer exhibits the outlooks of each character on the topic of love. He expresses the fact that Louis is aware that "there was a time" when...