Gimpel the Fool

Topics: Isaac Bashevis Singer, Yiddish literature, Warsaw Pages: 14 (6312 words) Published: March 2, 2011
There are a variety of different conclusions that one can reach in interpreting the story of Gimpel the Fool. The story draws its roots from the deep Yiddish background of the author, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and it deals with the traditional ―fool‖ archetype dealt with so often in the culture. The very archetype is plagued with irony, as the fool is typically seen as coming out on top of all of the others in the story, making them seem as the fool rather than the ―fool‖ himself. Gimpel the Fool follows the archetype well. In some instances, the idea of this particular archetype can be frustrating, as the typical reader may want the main character to get the revenge he deserves. This is rarely the case, as in doing so, it would make the main character the fool that everyone else believes him to be. The main theme behind the story of Gimpel is that even though everyone viewed him as a fool, they ended up being the ones who were truly foolish. Isaac Bashevis Singer was born in a Jewish village in Poland in 1904, while it was still part of Russia. He comes from a long line of rabbis, and his father intended to send him to the Warsaw Rabbinical Seminary to continue this tradition. He left the school in order to proofread for a Yiddish literary magazine, and to translate foreign novels into Yiddish. Singer wrote his first novel, Satan in Goray in 1935. He left his wife and son to settle in New York City, and shortly divorced and remarried. When he came to America in 1935, he followed in the footsteps of his brother, Joshua Israel Singer. He joined the Jewish Forward, a Manhattan based Yiddish newspaper. Some of his stories and novels were serialized in the Forward. He eventually turned to writing fiction, including long stories and short stories. His short stories are typically more acclaimed than the longer ones. ―His work deals mostly with the exotic heritage of Polish Jews, their traditional faith and folkways, their daily village life, their mysticism, their colorful personal relationships, their religious fanaticism, and their sexuality (Hart).‖ In 1978, Singer received the Nobel Prize. He was the first and only Yiddish writer to do so. His novels tend to be realistic, traditional narratives. His stories are characterized by folkatlae, psychology, supernatural occurrences, but otherwise realism. His subject matter is always Jewish. Fiction Essays 48

There is a lot of complexity in the story of Gimpel the Fool. The archetype of Gimpel himself is that of the traditional Yiddish schiemiel. The schiemiel is the ―fool‖ archetype. Even though he is plagued with misfortune, he ultimately wins out in some way and gains an understanding that others that are not in his situation can never hope to grasp. This is the case with Gimpel. Even though he is the butt of everyone‘s jokes, he maintains his priorities, and holds to his convictions. In the end, he resolves to become a wandering holy man, and even though he has been deceived and lied to his whole life, which he was quite aware of, he knows that in the next life, there will be no one who will deceive him ever again. ―In the Yiddish joke, the schlemiel is dogged by an ill luck, somehow of his own making. What the jokes celebrate- for all their pratfall and farce- are victories of common sense. Life‘s human comedy outstrips the illusion of man-made follies (Pinsker).‖ ―Because Gimpel takes the spirit of evil seriously, he is able to reject it and remove himself from a cycle of retribution which would destroy his essential integrity. In the end, he alone among the villagers refuses to fool himself (Angus).‖ Gimpel the fool is a man who does not consider himself a fool at all. Others do, as he is quite easy to take advantage of, and everyone in his village does almost any chance they get. When he was young, he once skipped school because the other kids told him that the rabbi‘s wife was going to give birth, even though she did not even look pregnant. His reason for believing was...
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