Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Isaac Bashevis Singer is known for stories that re-create the lost world of Jewish life in the Polish ghetto. This is the setting of “Gimpel the Fool,” but the story also presents a gently humorous psychological study as well as a thematic analysis of the nature of reality. From the very beginning, Gimpel the narrator cannot quite understand why he is treated as a fool. That he is narrating his own story makes it unlikely that one should consider him foolish in the ordinary sense. He is only partially a naïve narrator; although he is constantly tricked and deceived by others, Gimpel does show an awareness of what they are doing. His apparent “foolishness” consists in his taking the line of least resistance to avoid their teasing: He simply decides that it is easier to believe what he is told than to make an issue of it. In addition, his faith in God makes him believe that many things are possible, so he convinces himself of the improbable. In a sense, his simplicity and naïveté protect him from harm; his narration shows him to be largely oblivious of the viciousness of others’ pranks, and this apparent gullibility leads to relative contentment in his life.
The rabbi’s comment to Gimpel that the others are the real fools, combined with Gimpel’s epiphany on hearing Elka’s words in the dream, show that he may not be the complete fool that others have made him out to be. After his temptation by the Spirit of Evil and Elka’s advice to him,...
(The entire section is 406 words.)
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