1. Pages 291-298
Because he refused to sign the confession, Yakov is chained again. All he does is sleep now, even standing up in the chains during the day. He has bouts of dysentery through the winter and into the spring.
One day, a man comes to tell Yakov that the Tsar, for the Romanovs’ three-hundredth anniversary, will pardon certain criminals, and Yakov is one of them. Yakov, however, will not accept the pardon because to do so would mean he is never proved innocent. Later, the guard comes to let Yakov urinate in a can, then dumps the contents on Yakov’s head. He is forced to stand in chains all night.
During the summer (Yakov’s third in prison), another indictment comes, this time accusing Yakov of the blood ritual murder that had been left out of the last indictment. Again, the “evidence” of the matzos, the tools, the “blood” in a jar, and the bloody rag are put forward as proof. The indictment also says that Yakov tried to hide his Jewish religion by pretending to be an atheist, yet he was observed practicing Jewish prayers in his cell, with a prayer shawl and phylacteries, as well as reading from the Old Testament, which fellow Jews smuggled in to him.
Yakov wonders if he is to be given indictments for the next twenty years, yet never brought to trial.
Further echoes of Christ’s suffering occur in this section. Just as Christ had sour wine poured over his head before his death, Yakov has urine poured over his. And, like Christ, Yakov refuses to beg for clemency or give in to his accusers. If he is going to die, he will die for others. He will die, perhaps, to expose the evil of others. His innocence stands for the innocence of all Jews.
2. Pages 298-302
Grubeshov, in dress clothes, comes to visit Yakov on his way home from a banquet. He warns Yakov that Marfa Golov, whom he considers to be of sterling character, will testify against him and be believed. He also warns that if Yakov and his fellow Jews keep pushing for a trial before all the evidence is gathered, a “bloodbath” against the Jews will occur. If he is found guilty, one will occur; if he is found innocent, one will occur. Going to trial, he says, will not save any Jews. Only Yakov, he insists, might prevent such bloodshed if he would only confess or compromise.
Yakov says he would rather die than confess to something he did not do.
3. Pages 302-313
A lawyer named Julius Ostrovsky comes to see Yakov. He tells Yakov that Shmuel has died, and Yakov weeps. He also explains to Yakov that although he has friends who are working for his release, the political climate is very dangerous for Jews, who fear a pogrom. Even the Pope, he says, agrees that Russian officials have no case against Yakov. Grubeshov knows who the real murderers are—Marfa and her cronies murdered Zhenia for a life insurance policy worth five hundred rubles left to him by his father. Any papers that have written of this news, however, have been silenced. A friend of Marfa’s has also sworn that she saw Zhenia’s body in Marfa’s house and that Marfa threatened her whole family to keep her quiet.
Ostrovsky explains how Yakov’s unfortunate case is connected to recent Russian history. After a series of pogroms, the Tsar “‘granted a Constitution, the Imperial Duma was established, and for a short time it looked . . . like the beginning of a liberal period.’” The first Imperial Duma included twelve Jewish men who advocated for equal rights for Jews and the end of The Pale. However, the Tsar’s concessions brought strong reactions from Russians, and reactionary groups like the Black Hundreds formed to drive out minorities. The government does nothing to stop them because it is unpopular to go against them. Yakov is being used as a scapegoat, an “‘example of Jewish bloodthirst and criminality.’” Just when the Duma was about to decide whether to abolish The Pale or not, a Christian boy was conveniently found murdered in a cave. Yakov just happened to be conveniently nearby and relatively unknown. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Ostrovsky goes on to say that many thinking men from literature, science, and other professions have protested the case against Yakov. However, Ostrovsky and his associates suspect such men will be struck from jury lists. Yakov’s only hope is that the peasants who will make up his jury can distinguish between truth and manufactured truth.
Before he goes, Ostrovsky says that another lawyer, Suslov-Smirnov, will be taking over his case because he, Ostrovsky, has been forced to resign from the case. The opposition has accused him of attempting to bribe Marfa Golov. The last advice he offers is that Yakov must do nothing to provoke the prison administration to kill him. They may be looking for a way to do so, for if they do, they will never have to prove the case against him.
4. Pages 313-317
Yakov ponders why he, of all people, had to be the one in the wrong place at the wrong time. Was it simply a combination of bad luck and unlucky circumstances, such as finding Nikolai in the snow? What puzzles him most is why he, of all people, had “stepped into history more deeply than others.” If he had not been Jewish, then he would not have been living illegally in the Lukianovsky District just when the Russians needed a scapegoat. Even if he had stayed in the shtetl, he might have been safe, but he still would not have been free. He would still have been imprisoned in Jewish history. “A door swung open at his approach. A hand reached forth and plucked him in by his Jewish beard—Yakov Bok, a freethinking Jew in a brick factory in Kiev, yet any Jew, any plausible Jew—to be the Tsar’s adversary and victim,” picked as the scapegoat for a murder, thrown in jail and treated as less than an animal. “Why? Because no Jew was innocent in a corrupt state, the most visible sign of its corruption its fear and hatred of those it persecuted.”
Autumn arrives, and Suslov-Smirnov comes to see Yakov, warning him to be patient and to behave very carefully. After he leaves, a month goes by. Finally, Yakov learns that his trial is to begin.
Not only is Yakov caught by his Jewish heritage, he is also caught by Russian history. There seems to be no reason why he was the one Jew caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. History and heritage would have bound him wherever he went. No matter what circumstances or chain of events, they would not have changed the fact that Yakov is Jewish—and being Jewish means having no real freedom.
5. Pages 317-326
Yakov tries to keep awake the night before his trial. He is afraid that someone will come to kill him before he can be tried and prove his innocence. He hallucinates, seeing countless prisoners and spies. When he falls asleep, he sees Bibikov, who warns him to be on the watch not for an assassin, but for a seemingly accidental death that the prison officials might plan. Zhenia appears before Yakov, too, and Yakov tries to raise him from the dead.
In the morning, Kogin comes to bring breakfast, which Yakov refuses to eat because it might be poisoned. Berezhinsky comes, and he and Kogin take Yakov to the bathhouse, a luxury that brings tears to Yakov’s eyes. Then a barber appears to shave Yakov’s head. Yakov protests that he has not been shaved like all the other prisoners for the two and a half years that he has been there, but they make him get his hair cut anyway. They give Yakov the clothes he wore when he was arrested, and Yakov takes some satisfaction in the fact that they hang limply on him now; the officials cannot hide how they have starved him.
Cossack soldiers come to march Yakov to the warden’s office, where the warden reads to him a newspaper story about another Jew recently accused of ritual murder. He remarks, “‘I’ll tell you this, Bok: if we don’t convict one of you we’ll convict the other. We’ll teach you all a lesson.’” The Deputy Warden comes in to say he has got a telegram from the Tsar instructing that Yakov should get no special privileges, and that he should be searched as usual.
Yakov feels sick. He cannot go through yet another humiliating search, he thinks. The warden seems baffled by such a telegram. Yakov suspects that the telegram is a ploy to provoke him into violence, to give them an excuse to kill him. Back in his cell, he struggles between intense anger and self-control. Anger, however, takes over when the Deputy Warden orders him to take off his undershirt, which he has never had to remove before now. He takes off the shirt, but he throws it in the Deputy Warden’s face. The Deputy Warden takes out his gun, but before he can shoot Yakov, Kogin comes to his defense, saying Yakov has born enough. He takes out his own gun and holds it to the Deputy Warden’s neck. Berezhinsky reaches for his gun, but before he can do anything, Kogin fires at the ceiling. When the dust clears, Kogin lies on the floor, shot by the Deputy Warden himself.
6. Pages 326-335
As Yakov leaves the prison, a bell tolls somewhere, and a black bird flies across the sky. Yakov feels it is a bad omen. He is conveyed in a large, black, armored carriage flanked by armed Cossacks on horseback. Warden Grizitskoy accompanies him. Yakov contemplates how it has been a full three years since he left the shtetl. He is shocked to see masses of people congregated to watch his procession.
Yakov looks out the window at them and shouts his name, then, to a young Cossack rider who keeps looking at him, Yakov shouts, “‘Innocent!’” He thinks the young rider looks so free, so young.
Suddenly, a bomb explodes near the carriage. Yakov, fearing he is about to die, longs to see home and to see Raisl, with whom he wishes to set things straight. He looks out the window to see soldiers lifting up the young Cossack rider, whose foot has been severed by the bomb. The boy looks in horror at Yakov as they carry him past.
The carriage continues its progress at a run now. Yakov has an imaginary conversation with the Tsar, who tells Yakov that he never wanted to be the tsar, but he was born to the role. He asks Yakov to keep that in mind, to think about all the pressures a tsar must contend with. Surely, he says, Yakov, who has suffered, understands how he suffers, too. Yakov replies, “‘Excuse me, Your Majesty, but what suffering has taught me is the uselessness of suffering, if you don’t mind me saying so.’” He goes on to criticize the Tsar’s rule, how he has had chances to do right, yet has instead made Russia into a “‘valley of bones.” He tells the Tsar that, like his hemophiliac son, he is missing something in his blood: insight, respect, mercy, kindness.
Yakov imagines a gun on the table between him and the Tsar. He takes the gun and loads it, then points at the Tsar’s heart and fires.
Yakov comes back to reality. The carriage is still moving over cobblestones. “‘One thing I’ve learned,’” he tells himself, “‘there’s no such thing as an unpolitical man, especially a Jew. You can’t be one without the other, that’s clear enough. You can’t sit still and see yourself destroyed.’”
As the carriage passes, Yakov looks out to see Jews among the crowd, weeping, even clawing their faces. “Some shouted his name.”
It is perfectly clear to Yakov now that he was naïve to imagine he could be neither a Jew nor a non-Jew in such a place as Russia, where everyone has an affiliation or loyalty of some sort. And where corruption is allowed to fester, unhindered by the world. By birth, Yakov has been aligned with the Jews, and he was foolish to think he could simply cast off his heritage as if it were a cloak.
What Yakov’s fate is to be, readers do not know, since the novel ends before he reaches the courthouse. The final verdict does not matter, however. Yakov has become a symbol to both Jews and Christians alike, and their animosity towards one another will not abate, no matter what that verdict is, especially in Russia.
Several omens occur to suggest that Yakov will be found guilty. The bell tolling, the black bird, the black carriage like a hearse all suggest death for Yakov. The explosion that severs the young Cossack’s foot underscores the truth that Yakov has learned: some people are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Fate is blind. And in Russia, justice is blind. Even a loyal Russian like the Cossack can be caught in its terrible political wheels. He had done nothing to deserve his wound, yet because of the political climate against Jews, he was forced into that particular place at that particular moment—and he must bear the consequences. The look of shock on his face mirrors the feelings of disbelief Yakov experienced when he was first arrested.