Style and Technique

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.

Historical Context

The American Decade
''Gimpel the Fool" was first published in English translation in 1953. The 1950s are sometimes called the...

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Literary Style

"Gimpel the Fool" centers on Gimpel, a baker in the village of Frampol. Although he has been heckled and deceived by his fellow villagers...

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Literary Techniques

Singer depends on the technique of local color in his stories; they all contain an East European flavor, and Jewish culture plays an integral...

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Ideas for Group Discussions

An important subject for discussion about Singer's work is faith. Discussions should involve the characters' relationships with God and how...

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Social Concerns

A significant social concern in Gimpel the Fool is the question of free will and the concomitant question of the place of human beings...

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Compare and Contrast

1953: Americans Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, Jewish members of the Communist Party, are executed for espionage. As civilians, their...

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Topics for Further Study

Compare Gimpel to the lead character in the 1994 Academy Award-winning movie Forrest Gump.

Research Eastern European...

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Literary Precedents

One literary precedent for "Gimpel the Fool" may be Geoffrey Chaucer's "Miller's Tale" from The Canterbury Tales (1387- 1400). Gimpel,...

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Related Titles

The emphasis that Singer places on religious scholarship and Talmudic study, evident in stories such as "Joy" and "The Old Man," appears in...

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"Gimpel the Fool" was produced during the 1970-1971 season by the Yale Repertory Theater in New Haven, Connecticut, which also produced an...

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Media Adaptations

''Gimpel the Fool" was adapted for the stage by David Schechter and produced by Bakery Theater Cooperative of New York in 1982.


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What Do I Read Next?

I. L. Peretz's short story "Bontsha the Silent" centers on a character who, when offered everything in heaven, asks only for a hot roll with...

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(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Suggested Readings

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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Bibliography and Further Reading

Alexander, Edward Isaac Bashevis Singer: A Study of the Short Fiction, Twayne's Studies in Short Fiction, No. 18,...

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