The Fixer: Irony

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The Fixer: Irony Irony is an overpowering force in Bernard Malamud's The Fixer. The sequence of events which Yakov Bok goes through makes the entire novel ironic. The chief irony of the novel lies in the fact that what Bok is attempting to escape, he cannot escape. To understand the irony in the novel, it is necessary to examine two major events in the circular life of Yakov Bok. Bok is attempting the escape his life in the shetl. He is wrongly persecuted for a ritual murder and attempts to escape his physical and mental torture. In each case, Bok is attempting to escape his Jewishness. The novel has an overall ironic tone. Bok leaves the shetl in which he has lived the majority of his life to go to Kiev. In Kiev Bok hopes to find opportunities for work and education. Mainly, though, Bok seeks relief from his earlier shame of being cuckolded. While in the shetl Bok sees himself as a victim of his wife's barrenness (Unger 447 ). The irony lies in the fact that that even after escaping the shetl and being in a different kind of hell, prison, Bok's life in the shetl comes back to haunt him. Bok learns of a child that Raisl has had with her lover and gives his bitter sentence of "a black cholera upon her" ( Malamud 254 ). The one thing that might have given him happiness in his life before has now gone to someone else. This event brings Yakov shame that he could not father a child with Raisl while another man could. Thus, the problems of the shetl which Bok has tried so desperately to escape have come back to haunt him once again. Bok's life is very circular. Later in the novel, Raisl visits Yakov in prison in an attempt to end her own ostracism in the shetl. Yakov could here exact some kind of revenge upon Raisl by allowing her to be ostracized for having an illegitimate child the way he was ostracized for being cuckolded. However, Yakov eventually signs the document which says "I declare myself to be the father of Chaim, the infant son of my wife Raisl Bok... Please help the mother and child, and for this, amid all my troubles, I'll be grateful" ( 262). Bok, now having on paper what he once wanted most, a son, cannot enjoy it.

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