My father won't care if he finds out you read James Bond.
DVD Screencap, ©2012 AMC
Don looks a bit irritated and answers with the words:
You know what? This is a good book. You should read it.
The book he is talking about is The Fixer (1966) from Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Bernard Malamud.
The book is loosely based on a real incident, the
Beilis trial of 1913, and is about a Jewish handyman who’s accused of the ritualistic killing of a Christian boy.
More interesting for analyzing Don and his favorite book is, that the Jewish title character, Yakov Bok, is living with a fake identity and denies his religion so that he can live wherever he wants to.
On a deeper level, Yakov Bok’s story is about an anti-hero who finds himself as a stranger in his own community and becomes a victim of irrational prejudice against his religious beliefs.
The story that the anti-hero Yakov has to assume a fake identity fits to Don’s fate as we later find out.
Also Megan’s comment about the hero James Bond who also had to assume fake identities for his job, fits to Don’s tragic two sides: the alpha male hero in the advertising agency that contrasts his former life as an adopted child and poor car salesman.
Another subtle coincidence is that Megan’s father Emile Calvet is a communist: a belief system that went through political repressions during the anti-communist and conspiracy era of McCarty (1947-1956).
And a lot of communists in these times have been accused for espionage for the Soviets. Therefore, they often had to deny their political orientation and change their identity to safe their life.
This background story and Megan’s inconspicuous remark about Emile makes the book even more meaningful, because Megan’s father and her husband, Don, have something in common: they have and had to hide their real identity.
DVD Screencap, ©2012 AMC
A further prophetic sign in Bernard Malamud’s book The Fixer are the parallels between it’s main character and the author’s own real life and actually also to Don Draper’s life.
Because Malamud began an affair with one of his young students but his wife found out and started also an affair as an act of repayment. Despite this, they stayed married, because they learned forgiveness.
Finally, also Yakov Bok had to learn throughout his life in The Fixer to forgive his former wife who left him.
This act of absolution is the important lesson Yakov incorporates as a result of his personal spiritual growth throughout the book’s storyline.
Also Don cheated on Betty several times and she cheated on him too, as a revenge.
As a result, she left him and Don had to learn painfully to forgive her, like Yakov. Also Don’s fake identity seems to be depicted in this book.
Therefore, all this sounds like the perfect book that fascinates Don because he actually sees his own life in the plot and anti-hero Yakov Bok.
In fact, the book functions – for those who know its story – like a precursor of Don’s personal story in season five and beyond.
Megan’s comment shows furthermore, that she sees only the super hero James Bond in Don, while she knows nothing about Don’s disguise and real life.
Of course, It’s not clear if the Mad Men creators had all this in mind when choosing this book in this scene, but it sounds like an reasonable assumption.
External links for further interesting readings:
- 1960s Handbook – The Fixer, via AMC TV Blog
- 'Mad Men' 507 sneak peek: 'The Fixer' and more from Don Draper's reading list , by Liz Kelly Nelson
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