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.
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.
Malamud excels with visiblity.
A character is not simply a name on the page with a few lines of dialogue following. Instead Malamud uses themes and imagery to create an extremely visible experience for the reader. He is very consistent with his imagery through the entire book.
For example, Helen Bober is described with images of flowers throughout the book. The first time Frank spies on Helen in the shower, he notices her “ass like a flower” and observes that she pulls the “flowered plastic curtain around her.” Earlier in the novel, Frank sees her underwear drying in the backyard. Malamud describes them as “flower-like.” These early references to Helen as a flower, insinuate a possibility for Helen and Frank. Flowers take time to bloom and come in the spring. Since it is winter in this part of the novel, these flower metaphors foreshadow that something will grow between Helen and Frank. Also, they create the image of Helen as a girl still transitioning into a woman, blossoming into a woman.
By using, imagery Malamud is able to develop the characters before the reader’s eyes.