Throughout Bernard Malamuds, beautifully written, The Assistant there were references to cultural icons or to religious symbols that sometimes represent The writers major theme. In this book it is Franks constant resemblance to St. Francis Of Assisi, and Franks subtle conversion to Judaism. The most important religious symbol in the book is St. Francis. Frank Alpine’s name two important connotations: It suggests an affinity with St. Francis of Assisi and also refers to mountain heights beyond the Timberline.
Frank has vivid memories of learning about St. Francis. His desires to be like St. Francis emphasizes only one half of his divided character, because he is both a saint and a sinner in a way. Which gives him an alter ego in the novel. Ward Minogue is Franks devil and his angels are Morris and Helen. Frank doesnt practice religion like a dedicated man, he is catholic because he came up that way, but at the end of the novel there is a strange twist because he gets circumcised! And becomes a Jew. He suddenly converted religions.
This reminds me of Homers epic poem The Odyssey because like Odysseus Frank changes to try to become a better person also like St. Francis of Assisi. This is a touching story but there is still some humor in it. The main reason for him to convert was so that Helen could accept him, but he also wants to acknowledge that he is no different from Jews, and that he is willing to live among them even if Helen doesnt want to. This is the reason it is humorous because he finds out that he can be a Jew because he shares a undamental humanity with them.
According to Morris he was becoming a Jew long before his official conversion. St. Francis of Assisi has something to do with Franks conversion but it is of very little importance. Frank experiences change through suffering almost like a human saint. This can also go for the Jews who suffered for many things. St. Francis is also an important factor because even his name compares: Frank-Francis and Alpine-Assisi. It is like they are both coming from the same place or growing out of the same branch in a wisted, eerie like way.
This is also a sign of good writing because it is the author that gives us these feelings. I believe that frank is a figure of a saint going through certain changes that make him more of a better person. Franks subtle conversion to Judaism was fortified by the good writing of Malamud. He did it on the last page and on the last line even though there was some foreshadowing. He leaves us in suspense. The circumcision and such gave it away in a nice mood.