The Fixer: Themes

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The Existence and Power of a God

Throughout the novel, Yakov debates the existence of God. He has never truly believed in the Jewish God, who to his mind has never cared for him, a poor man in need of help. When he reads the Old Testament, Yakov merely sees a “blustering” yet clueless God. Yakov tinkers with the ideas of the philosopher Spinoza, a Jew who suggested that God exists in nature and in the mind of man, but this philosophy never answers Yakov’s question: why is this terrible thing happening to me? Yakov also considers the Christian God. Christian teachings about kindness and compassion and about the sacrifice of an innocent man (Christ) do not seem to apply to Jews. Yakov finds most Christians hypocritical in their beliefs. How can a God who allows Christians to persecute an innocent man be one in which he can believe?

Yakov comes to reject the existence of God entirely. He considers his life and sees a chain of events that led, with no good reason that he can see, to his downfall. It is history—the accumulation of men’s prejudices and actions—to which he has fallen victim. Men make their own realities, and in Russia, at that time, the reality was that Jews were persecuted regardless of their innocence or guilt. Yakov just happened to be a victim of circumstance, a man in the wrong place at the wrong time. When Yakov realized that he must save the Jews, he does so not because they worship the God he has rejected, but because they, too, are victims of history. It is history that is unjust, not God, because history determines the fates of men.

Corruption and Anti-Semitism in Russia

In a way, The Fixer is a lesson in Russian history. It is based on a true story, that of a Jewish man named Mendel Beilis, who was accused of murdering a Christian child and imprisoned in 1911. Beilis’s treatment at the hands of fiercely anti-Semitic Russian authorities—and the fact that it took them two years to bring him to trial—provoked international outcry against the Russians. Before the trial, the only person to speak out against the prosecution was an investigator, Nikolay Krasovsky, who was fired when it became evident he would stand in the way of finding Beilis guilty. At the trial, it became clear that the prosecutors’ evidence was weak and that some of it was manufactured. A priest who professed to being an expert on Jewish rituals was debunked under cross-examination, and the prosecution’s key witness, a person said to have witnessed the boy’s kidnapping by a Jew, confessed to being pressured by police to accuse the Jew. Beilis was found not guilty of the murder.

The Fixer exposes the corruption in Russia during that period. As a Jew living in the Pale, Yakov is powerless to improve his life from a never-ending cycle of poverty. He has to break the law and leave the Pale in order to find a chance for a better life—and he does find a better life, or at least a job. However, once he is suspected of being a Jew, his life crashes down around him and he finds himself in prison for killing Zhenia Golov. The evidence against Yakov is manufactured, and witnesses blatantly lie—and only one person, the Investigating Magistrate Bibikov, dares to reveal that the case against Yakov is completely a ruse on the part of rabid anti-Semitic officials. Even the Tsar, moral leader of the state, is weak enough to cave into the anti-Semitic leaders and proclaim Yakov guilty without giving him due process. Yakov is imprisoned for three years and treated inhumanely—all because he is a Jew.

More than exposing the corruption of Russia, however, The Fixer exposes the base cruelty that can lie in men’s hearts when they have a political agenda. What Yakov endured in prison was unspeakable inhumane treatment—all because he was a Jew.

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