Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical 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.

Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

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

(The entire section is 430 words.)

Literary Style

(Short Stories for Students)

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

(The entire section is 514 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

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

(The entire section is 263 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

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

(The entire section is 513 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

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

(The entire section is 706 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Short Stories for Students)

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

(The entire section is 118 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

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

Research Eastern European...

(The entire section is 63 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

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

(The entire section is 419 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

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

(The entire section is 203 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

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

(The entire section is 70 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Short Stories for Students)

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


(The entire section is 118 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Short Stories for Students)

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...

(The entire section is 109 words.)


(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.

(The entire section is 41 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Short Stories for Students)

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

(The entire section is 148 words.)