Gimpel The Fool Essay, Research Paper
Contrasts of the two main characters in Singer s Gimpel the Fool indicate that they are two totally different people. These contrasts reveal the different natures that both characters show throughout the story. Both Gimpel and his wife Elka are faced with the same situations, but the way they handle these situations can be easily contrasted. The way they are involved with deceptions, their family values, and their personalities are just a few of the main points that can be contrasted.
Gimpel and Elka are both involved with deception in the course of the entire story. Elka, from the very instant that she met with Gimpel, started off by deceiving him. Gimpel asked her if she was really a virgin and if the young Yechiel was her little brother or a bastard. Instead of answering his questions, she just rambled on how people can t take advantage of her. Elka again deceived Gimpel when their first child was born only seventeen weeks after their marriage. You have borne a bastard, (Singer 82) Gimpel proclaims. To this remark Elka replies, Drive this foolishness out of your head. The child is yours (Singer 82). Knowing full well that the child couldn t possibly have been Gimpel s, she continued to deceive him into believing her. Even toward the end of Elka s life she finally admits her deceptions toward Gimpel when she says, It was ugly how I deceived you all these years . the children are not yours (Singer 86). From these few instances one can see how Elka spent her entire time with Gimpel repeatedly deceiving him. On the other hand, Gimpel was also involved with deception throughout Gimpel the Fool . While Elka was deceiving Gimpel, he was contrastingly being the one deceived. This point of contrast show that both Gimpel and Elka were both involved with deception, only in contrasting ways.
Since Elka and Gimpel were married they were both faced with the same issues when it came to their family. When Elka gave birth to their first son, Gimpel explains, To tell the plain truth, I didn t believe her and continues by stating, I loved the child madly, and he loved me too (Singer 82). This demonstrates that even while Gimpel knew the son wasn t really his, he cared for his family too much to let it come between them. While Elka sat at home tending to her passion of physical love, Gimpel was off at his bakery working as hard as possible to support his family. He would even steal whatever he could so, [Elka] ate and became fat and handsome (Singer 83). One night after coming home from the bakery early, Gimpel hear a double snore coming from the room that Elka was sleeping in. To his surprise he found lying next to Elka a man s form. After confronting the rabbi with his discovery, the rabbi suggested that he divorce her at once. Instead of breaking up his family he told the rabbi, [The man s form] must have been a shadow . Just one of the beams, I think (Singer 85). Elka was full of pitch and sulphur and gave Gimpel bloody wounds . Still you can see Gimpel s adoration for her when he says, I don t want to lie about it; I didn t dislike Elka either,
for that matter . I adored her every word (Singer 82). It seems clear that the way Gimpel handles family values contrasts with the way that Elka handles them.
Furthermore, Gimpel and Elka can also be seen as contrasting characters when it comes to their personalities. Gimpel is seen as the caring, selfless part of the family, while Elka is careless and self-serving. Subsequent to being forbidden from seeing Elka for her act of infidelity, Gimpel runs home immediately to tell her the good news that he could once again be with her. Much to his surprise he came home once again to see his apprentice lying beside Elka. She once again denies his accusations, An evil spirit has taken root in you and dazzles your sight (Singer 86). The rabbi can even be seen noticing Gimpel s kind and self-less ways when he proclaims, Belief in itself is beneficial. It is written that a good man lives by his faith (Singer 86). Elka is a very careless person, and shows it several times during Gimpel the Fool . Every time that she is unfaithful to Gimpel, when she lies to him about being unfaithful, and even when she swears to the townspeople and rabbi that Gimpel s accusation was false, all contribute to the fact that Elka is a careless, self-serving person. Their personalities can easily be contrasted as opposites throughout the story.
This paper of contrasts shows how the two main characters can be so different in their own ways. Clearly Elka is involved in deceiving not only Gimpel, but also the townspeople of Frampol. She also displays that she had no family values and cared only for herself and her joy of physical love from other men. Finally, it is seen that her personality shows traits of carelessness and her desire to self-serve. In contrast, Gimpel is always being deceived by Elka, shows that he puts his family first, and is has the complete opposite personality from Elka.
Kennedy, X.J. and Dana Gioia, eds. Literature. Second Compact ed. New York: Addison Wesley Longman, 2000.
Singer, Isaac Bashevis. Gimpel The Fool. Kennedy, 78-89.