Gimples Foolishness Essay, Research Paper
March 16, 2001
In many stories there are series of conflicts with an individual and his society. In “Gimpel the Fool,” written by Isaac Bashevis Singer, there is conflict between Gimpel and the society in which he lives in. Gimpel is portrayed as a foolish man who has been getting stepped on by the townspeople ever since he was a child. In “Gimpel the Fool” Singer shows how society can abuse the weakness of one man for their own personal enjoyment, therefore, shaping ones role in the community.
The major conflict of the story deals with Gimpel’s relationship towards people in his community. Gimpel is always being mocked at for being naive. The people in his community take advantage of his short coming and make it even worse. The odd thing is that Gimpel allows this to be done to him. He even admits to knowing they are lying. Gimpel says, “I knew very well that nothing of the sort had happened, but… maybe something had happened.” (Singer 62) This proves that Gimpel is not as dumb as others believe. The thing Gimpel has that no one else is shown as having is moral values. Gimpel’s conscience does not allow him to perceive what is true and what is not true. Gimpel will end up feeling bad if he accuses someone of lying, so he perceives everyone as trying to tell the truth.. Gimpel sees everyone as trustworthy, hoping that they would have the same values as himself.
An even bigger and more complex conflict seems to arise between Gimpel himself. He is fearful of what others might think of him if he acts rationally. He believes he is going to offend them, when in reality he is offending himself. Again, this is an example of his conscience getting in his way. Gimpel says, “…the whole town came down on me! If I ever dared say, ‘Ah, you’re kidding!’” (Singer 62) Gimpel would rather look foolish than have to deal with the scrutiny of having to fight back. He even describes himself as a strong man who cannot be easily pushed around, but wants to avoid confrontation at all means possible. Gimpel himself creates the conflict between him and society.
The townspeople are to blame as well for this conflict. They have been able to intimidate Gimple into believing anything they say. Whenever Gimpel tries to confront them about their pranks they become outraged. As if there was no reason not to believe them. The town does a good job working as a collective group against Gimpel. They are careless, viscous, and do not know when to leave Gimple alone. They are the ones that shaped Gimpel into being a foolish man with all the ridicule they gave him.
Gimpel’s wife is a symbol of how society has treated him. His wife did not respect him or care about him, but Gimpel stayed by her side because he had high moral values. All his wife did during her lifetime was make Gimpel look like a fool. She cheated on him various times and had children out of wedlock. Gimpel was never able to confront his wife without ever feeling foolish afterwards. Whenever he would try to confront his wife about the men he has seen sleeping in her bed, she would say he was hallucinating. Gimpel being a fool would believe her and eventually forgive her at the end. Instead of pulling pranks on him, she would cheat on him, yell names and obscenities and, continually lie to him. Even though his wife treated him badly, he still cared for her and her children as if they were his own.
Gimpel’s problem is that he thinks to much about what other people think. His entire life he has been labeled as the foolish one. All of a sudden, if he began to confront the community about how he felt, he would no longer have a role in society. He is afraid of what other people are going to tell him and how they will react towards him. He has already grown and adapted this role that society has placed on him. He knows what everyone thinks of him. In the opening paragraph Gimpel says he was called names like, “imbecile, donkey, flax-head, dope, glump, ninny, and fool.” (Singer 61) Its not like Gimpel was not aware of what people thought of him.
Gimpel almost sought to the same level as the townspeople. After his wife passed away Gimpel felt depressed and this is when he was tempted by the devil to urinate on all the bread. Gimpel seriously contemplated the idea to the point where he actually did do it. Later on that night though he had a dream with his wife that made him feel guilty. Even though, the only thing the townspeople have ever made him feel is low. He still was not able to get back at them when he had his chance because he keeps letting his conscience get to him.
The conflict between Gimpel and the townspeople is only resolved when Gimpel assures himself that anything can happen. Singer is able to show how society can make someone feel if they are continually attacked and the impact they can have on someone’s life. If Gimpel was never mocked at he could have turned into a man who would not be able to express his opinion. But since society decided to label him as a fool, that is what he stayed for most of his life. Most importantly, Singer is trying to explain how outside sources can shape ones life and turn them into someone they are not.
Singer, Isaac Bashevis. “Gimpel the Fool.” Introduction to Literature. 2nd ed. Ed. Muller, Gilbert H., and John A. Williams. United States of America: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1985. 61-70.