Essay, Research Paper
A deeper look at “Gimple the Fool”
At one time or another, everyone, in their life, has looked down upon someone because that someone isn’t as rich, attractive, or even as intelligent as most people. People do this without any regard to the people’s feeling, and without ever imagining what it is like to be in that person’s shoes. In Isaac Bashevis Singer’s “Gimpel the Fool”, a man named Gimpel was harassed and teased because of the fact he was gullible, or so the people believed. The townspeople looked at Gimpel as if he was a fool, which leads to them taking advantage of him, but overall, Gimpel wasn’t as foolish as the people had him out to be.
Was Gimpel really a fool? The townspeople sure thought so. The story opens up with Gimpel saying he’s a fool but not really agreeing with the statement. Gimpel gives his own reason when he says, “What did my foolishness consist of? I was easy to take in” (Singer 1071). He says this meaning that anything that someone says to him he believes to be the truth, no matter how outlandish it may be. His life was full of lies that people told him and it made no difference how many times he was made a fool, he still let on that he believed them. One example, and the one where he vows never to be taken in again, is when a student came by his bakery and yelled to him that the Messiah has come. They claimed his parents were standing at their graves waiting for him to come and Gimpel, although not believing a bit of it, put on his wool vest and went to see for himself. The only thing that he found was the realization that he is the butt of another joke, but the worst is still to come.
After a lifetime of torment, the townsfolk thought up an elaborate scheme to top all schemes. They talked Gimpel into marrying the town’s whore and convincing him that if he didn’t marry her then the rabbi would fine him for giving her a bad name. Gimpel, with the thought, “They’re set on making me their butt. But when you’re married the husband’s the master, and if that’s all right with her it’s agreeable to me too”, set out to fetch his wife (Singer 1072). Although Gimpel faced tricks everyday, this one was one that was to affect his life forever. He lived the rest of his wife’s life believing her bastard son was her brother, that her second son was his son, and her daughter, born not to long after, was his child also. The people of the town loved every minute of his life, laughing and giggling at every lie he believed to be true. Even though his marriage was a big hoax, he did begin loving his wife, and when he caught her in the bed with another man, he began lying to himself by thinking, ” maybe I was only seeing things? Hallucinations do happen. You see a figure or a mannequin or something, but when you come up closer it’s nothing, there’s not a thing there” (Singer 1076)
Is it possible for a whole town to be foolish while one man is the only non-fool among them? Gimpel didn’t believe more than half the stuff the people told him, what made him go along though? Alexander writes, ” two impulses keep him from asserting his dignity – and his incredulity. One is his incapacity for righteous anger, hatred, and incapacity The other is his instinctive sense that belief is not a matter of evidences but of will.” Looked upon like this, Gimpel doesn’t seem so stupid, but more of a man that fears not believing something that is true. Often the negative saying, don’t believe until proven right, is thought by others. But because the majority thinks one way doesn’t make it more intelligent of a choice. “Those who delight in victimizing Gimpel are themselves victims of their incapacity to believe with him that ‘everything is possible’” (Friedman 190). It doesn’t make Gimpel a fool because he chose to believe the people, he knew for himself that none of the things said were anywhere near the truth. He believed because he wanted to believe. He married that woman because he wanted to, not because he believed she was virgin pure, or because he believed that her son was actually her brother, but again, because he wanted to.
Gimpel looked to be the fool, was taken advantage of, but in the end he knew that he wasn’t as stupid as the people thought he was. He wasn’t bothered by the fact he was teased for being gullible, or in this case, appearing to be gullible. He went on with the jokes because he wanted to. This story is less tragic than most stories that relate to people being tormented all their life, and this goes to show that faith in one’s self will overcome someone else’s lack of faith. People should think next time they torment another person. Who is really appearing to be the fool, the tormentor or the person receiving the harsh words?