Gimpel The Fool Essay, Research Paper
Dr. William Tuttle
Introduction to Literature
An Explication of Singer’s “Gimpel the Fool”
The story “Gimpel the Fool” is written in first person point of view; and the narrator, Gimpel, is the main character in the story. In the opening paragraph in the story Singer shows how reliable of a narrator that Gimpel is. Gimpel shares many of the nicknames he has had given to him in school, including “imbecile, donkey, flax-head, dope, glump, ninny, and fool.” He then says that he was considered a fool because he was easily taken in. He gave an example of one of the situations that earned him that title. “They said, “Gimpel, you know the rabbi’s wife has been brought to childbed?” So I skipped school. Well, it turned out to be a lie. How was I supposed to? She hadn’t had a big belly. But I never really looked at her belly.” I think that it shows nothing but a great deal of honesty on Gimpel’s part to explain the situation the way that he does. He doesn’t even try to make it sound as if it was even hard to fool him. He just told it the exact way that it took place; they told him a lie and he didn’t even question it, he just believed it. He doesn’t try to make the lie sound anymore believable than it was either; he is very honest and straightforward. He also gives you insight on his thought process, which is very open and unguarded. After his second example of “foolishness” Gimpel says, “I was no weakling. If I slapped someone he’d see all the way to Cracow. But I’m really not a slugger by nature. I think to myself, Let it pass. So they take advantage of me.” These are not words of a fool, but they are words of a very trusting and reliable character.
Gimpel is made to be a protagonist character in the opening paragraph. Singer kind of makes you feel sorry for him with the stories of the other kids being mean to him in school. That combined with his rigorous honesty, you find yourself sympathizing for Gimpel. Singer makes Gimpel out to be an innocent soul that is taken advantage of for the other children’s amusement and entertainment. By doing this Singer makes the other children antagonist characters. In a way the children are lumped together to be one character; kind of like Gimpel’s nemesis.
Singer uses a couple of different ways to create the character Gimpel. First of all he uses what other characters say about him and do to him. As we know the other kids at school say he is a fool, and take advantage of him for their own entertainment. I don’t think that this was used make him into a foolish character. I think it was used to make Gimpel into a victim, a sympathetic character. Next, the narrator’s descriptions of himself do a big part of creating his character. In the opening lines he says, “I don’t think myself a fool. On the contrary.” Plus the last few sentences he that talks of himself as not being a slugger and he acknowledges the fact that the kids are taking advantage of him. It really makes Gimpel out to not being a fool, but and makes him into being some kind of martyr. Thirdly, I think that the actions of the narrator, him being a nonviolent person, kind makes out to be above that kind of behavior. Which doesn’t make Gimpel a fool at all, it makes the other children the fools.
“Gimpel the Fool.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama 7th edition. 1999. Kennedy, X.J. and Giola, Dana. Isaac Basevis Singer:Translated by Saul Bellow.