Archive for April, 2011

Visible: Adaptation

Seger suggests that you look for sympathetic characters. Especially, when you are adapting something for American audiences. I believe that Frank Alpine’s character is not sympathetic enough. Especially, because the character of Morris Bober is so sympathetic and Frank treats Morris very poorly.

In this adaptation, I have made Frank Alpine more sympathetic and given him reason for acting the way he does. I am focusing on the shadow of his past that haunts him. I visualize for the audience that Frank has a past that makes it very hard for him to change and move forward. I also show that Frank hopes to be more than he is, he wants to do good. His shadow is that of the beloved St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis was known for his love of animals and that he gave up wealth to live a holy life. While, Frank struggles to do good, he genuinely does try. His role model is St. Francis and it gives hope to the reader that Frank might find his way.


When creating my bloxes it was very easy to choose what characters to include. I just used Frank Alpine and Morris Bober, the two major characters. However, while it was easy to choose what characters to focus on and depict, it was much harder to limit what characters I alluded to. I wanted my bloxes to be relatable to those who hadn’t read The Assistant. While, they may not get the story from my bloxes, I want them to get a sense of the characters. While I do create references to characters that one would only know from reading the book, I wanted to limit the reference to characters, so that the bloxes don’t look like a scramble of random images.

Once you have decided what characters to keep, Seger says to ‘look for character detail’. When creating this blox, I wanted to show that Morris Bober is more than just a stereotypical Jewish man. Yes, he uses a lot of yiddish and is extremely thrifty. But, there is more to him than that. He is like this because of the many setbacks he has gone through in life. When creating this blox I looked for the most important details that are crucial to understanding the character of Morris. I tried to show through the use of color versus black & white, that as you looked closer you saw more color, you saw that there is more to Morris. That, to use a cliche, there is more than meets the eye.

For this blox I focused on Seger’s focus on creating a coherent style when adapting a piece. The lack of lightness in the story, and the building weight and pressure on the characters was a very apparent style choice made by Malamud. I wanted to depict this in my box.

Seger notes that the mood creates an emotional response. By creating a heavy mood I am hoping to elicit a feeling of pressure and restriction with my blox. The picture of the broken tombstone and the dark figures bending over due to the pressure of life all helped to create the mood. It is difficult to translate a written mood created by words into a visual mood. However, I took Malamud’s frequent images of tombstones and weight and visually showed them in my blox. I like that the person is not an actual image of a person, but simply a silhouette. Not only does this allow the person to see themselves in the image, but also creates a darker mood. Silhouettes are mysterious and ambiguous. There is uncertainty in a silhouette.

Earlier I talked about how the ‘exactness’ of this piece had a lot to do with Malamud’s ability to realistically portray the struggles of immigrants. Seger devoted a whole chapter to finding a theme. I thought this blox did the best job of depicting Malamud’s overall theme. The only image that relfects on the story in this blox is the grocery store. However, I used images from online and my own family to show real immigrants. By tying in these historical images, I am expanding upon Malamud’s ability to realistically depict the struggles of immigrants from our country’s past.

Seger says that ‘the story choices the writer has made’ is one way to discover their theme. Obviously Malamud’s choice of writing about immigrants, not only in The Assistant but many of his other novels lays evidence that his main theme was the struggle of immigrants and the way they are treated. Narration is another way Seger says the theme can be discovered. The narration definitely lays a sympathetic view of the Bober’s struggles.

I wanted this blox to show the theme of the story. That it is about more than the Bober family. But about millions of immigrants throughout our nation’s histories who have suffered merely because of their country of origin.

Linda Seger says that one of the most important parts to adapting a book is finding the conflict. And Malamud does that very quickly.

The story immediately goes into the struggles of Morris Bober and his family. You read about Morris’ day-to-day struggle with simply running his store. But, the conflict gets even worse, before it gets a little better. In the second chapter, Morris is robbed and hit in the head. He can no longer work. The story jumps right into the conflict. The conflict in the story mostly centers around Frank and the Bober’s struggle to get through life. I focused on this struggle for my blox. They are all trying to balance together and figure it out.

The Assistant follows the journey of Frank Alpine from robber to Jew. Frank is not perfect, and along the way you watch him make mistake after mistake, until he is finally able to mature and devote himself to Judaism. Seger recommends that when your story follows someone on a journey, you should find the middle of the story first. She wants you to answer the questions ‘What happens to my character?’ and ‘How is my character changed?’ That is very simply done in The Assistant. Frank Alpine is changed into a Jew at the end of the story. His character wants to be an honest person with morals. The story follows his struggle to leave the past behind. The Bober family comes along for the journey, and is forever changed, not always for the better, due to Frank Alpine being in their life. Seger says that journey stories can be the hardest to adapt. For this blox, I focused on the fact that we are on a trans-formative journey. Frank Alpine, as represented by a bird because of his love of St. Francis, is flying along with the Bobers. Together they are trying to stay on the path together and get through life.

Exact: Blox

Light: Blox

Morris Bober is carrying a lot on his back.

My blox for lightness has the shadow of a man that is carrying many things on his back. Among them are a bottle of milk, a roll, a bird, a star of David, and a cup of tea. Each of these represent something that is weighing Morris Bober down. Every morning he wakes up at 4a to give an old woman a roll for 3 cents. Ida, his wife, is always complaining that waking up that early is not worth the 3 extra cents. But Morris does it anyway. He invites a stranger, Frank Alpine, into his life and trusts him with everything that he has. Frank is represented by the bird, because he loved St. Francis of Assisi. And the star of David dangles as a representation of the struggles Morris has gone through from just being Jewish. The cup of tea represents the kindness that Morris has shown to all of his neighbors over the years, even when they have shown him no kindness. The shadow of the man progresses forward, however the man remains in the same position, never changing. Morris is weighed down throughout the whole book, unable to change positions. In the background is a broken tombstone. The tombstone alludes to many things. First, another thing thing that weights Morris down is his frequent thoughts about the loss of his son. Also, Morris’ store is compared to a grave many times throughout the book. And finally, Morris dies at the end of the book. All of these stresses lead to eventual death. He is never able to break free of these pressures.

Cornell used his boxes to try to make sense of his life and better understand it. As I created this blox on lightness, I reflected on my own struggles. As I am graduating in two weeks, I have many pressures on my back right now. I don’t know what I am going to do once I graduate, or where I will work. This blox made me reflect on not only my own pressures, but how I will deal with them. I don’t want to let these things weigh me down and effect me the way they did Morris.

My visible box for The Assistant is an image of Frank Alpine. His shadow is that of St. Francis of Assisi. Frank is clocked in a shadow. You can’t tell who the shadow is of. The shadow represents Frank’s past and how his past haunts him wherever he goes. I put a moon behind Frank to represent the night. Night seems to be the witching hour that Frank would do all the things he didn’t want to do. For example, raping Helen and robbing the Bober’s store.

As I mentioned earlier, Malamud does not merely create a simple character. His characters have past failures, future hopes, and many other characteristics. Frank Alpine had a hard childhood. He was raised in an orphanage after his father abandoned him as a child. He left an abusive foster home and made his way to the east. There he gets caught up with the wrong people and ends up robbing the Bober’s store. Throughout Frank’s life he has always had a liking for St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis is who Frank wishes he could be. However, he lets himself get wrapped up in the wrong things too often.

Growing up, my best friend in Atlanta, had a hard childhood. Her stepfather was an alcoholic and verbally abusive. Her mother became friends with my parents. And many times my Dad had to drive over in the middle of the night and pick her up and bring her back to my house. As we got older, I saw how her childhood affected her relationship with men and her ability to deal with difficult situations. Having a boyfriend was really important to her, and she always had one. I knew this was because of her abusive step-dad. It was hard to watch her walk through life with the shadow of her past hanging over her. Just as night was usually a bad time for Frank, it was also for my friend. When she would come back with my Dad, we would sit on my back porch and look up at the moon and talk about what had happened that night. When I take a second to look at the moon on some nights, it reminds me of the times we had together at night.

The creation of this blox was another conversation with myself. Not only did I think about the experiences my friend had had that made her live life the way she did. But, I thought about the experiences in my life that made me ME.