Style and Technique (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
By having the protagonist narrate his own story, Singer achieves a mixture of humor, realism, and fantasy; what Gimpel narrates is unquestionably happening, but the interpretation of the events is that of a simple, naïve commentator (although Gimpel is not really very naïve when he tells the story, because it may be assumed he is speaking after the events, with his newfound wisdom and understanding). From Gimpel’s own words, the reader comes to understand the kind of person that Gimpel is, as well as the events in his life, in a way that the narrator himself does not completely comprehend. The reader is able to infer that Gimpel is not as intelligent as others; as Gimpel says, “they argued me dumb.” His realization of what others are doing to him is apparent as he comments, “I realized I was going to be rooked”’ and “To tell the plain truth, I didn’t believe her.” His eventual compromise—“But then, who really knows how such things are?”—is a mixture of his attempt to avoid strenuous intellectual debating and his simple faith.
The strong faith, the essential goodness, of the narrator is childlike in its simplicity: He is like a child who does not know how to interpret the incomprehensible things that are told to him by adults. Singer maintains this tone of childlike simplicity by his choice of words and by the unaffected language with which Gimpel expresses his perception of reality.
Ideas for Group Discussions
Compare and Contrast
Topics for Further Study
What Do I Read Next?
Bibliography (Identities & Issues in Literature)
Farrell, Grace. “Suspending Disbelief: Faith and Fiction in I. B. Singer.” Boulevard 9, no. 3 (Fall, 1994): 111-117.
Pinsker, Sanford. The Schlemiel as Metaphor. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1991.
Wisse, Ruth R. The Schlemiel as Modern Hero. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971.
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