One of the most important themes in Fools is the idea of deceptive appearances. Although the premise of the play dictates that all the characters are unintelligent, many of them display moments of perspicacity that seem out of character. This duality allows Simon to exploit the lack of intelligence for comic effect. If all the characters were equally uninformed, none of them would ever notice the mistakes of the people around them. As a result, the characters’ intellects fluctuate in a way that allows them to comment on each other’s shortcomings. When Leon feigns stupidity after the twenty-four limit has passed, Dr. Zubritsky evaluates him. When it is clear that Leon cannot come up with an intelligent response, Dr. Zubritsky comments on how dumb Leon is. Earlier in the play, the same character was having trouble remembering the word curse, mistakenly using words that rhyme with it such as nurse and hearse. Simon imbues all of his characters with these moments of clarity.
This notion of deceptive appearances underscores a foundational idea that Simon presents: the curse might not be a curse at all. Leon fakes stupidity to prove to Sophia that the curse might be solely in the minds of the inhabitants. Leon believes the curse is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The people have been told their whole lives that they are dumb, so they act accordingly. Simon reinforces this viewpoint by having Leon address the audience at the end of the play to foretell the futures of most of the main characters. In enumerating their many reversals, Leon points out how unique they are. Whereas they all seemed similarly confused for much of the play, they regained their individuality through knowledge.
Another important theme in the play is the close relationship between intelligence and stupidity. Many of the mistakes and malapropisms made by the residents of Kulyenchikov are misconceptions of accurate ideas rather than a thorough lack of knowledge....
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