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Whatever story his neighbors come up with, no matter how wildly improbable, Gimpel accepts it at face value."I had seven names in all: imbecile, donkey, flax-head, dope, glump, ninny and fool," says the notably self-aware Gimpel.He works as a baker in an Eastern European shtetl, where life hews closely to tradition.
But they may have been too focused on how Gimpel starts, rather than where he finishes.
It is no accident that when he comes to his senses -- rejecting Frampol, but keeping his own innate goodness intact -- he, like Singer, takes flight and becomes a storyteller."Gimpel" is, in the end, a sly rebuke to rationalism, and is a story in which the author explains, and defends, his decision to become a writer.
When Rietze the Candle-dipper tells him his parents have risen from the grave and are looking for him, Gimpel knows full well this cannot be, but he goes outside to look just in case: “What did I stand to lose just by looking? For he who causes his neighbor to feel shame loses Paradise himself.” Gimpel considers leaving town, but the people will not hear of it. He sees several flaws in Elka, his prospective bride, but the townspeople tell him his perceptions are wrong.
” This incident creates such an uproar that he vows not to believe anything else, but that does not work either. The rabbi tells Gimpel, “It is written, better to be a fool all your days than for one hour to be evil. Elka’s “bastard” son is really her little brother, and her limp is “deliberate, from coyness.” Furthermore, they threaten to have the rabbi fine him for giving her a bad name.
He is persuaded to marry the town whore, Elka, whose bastard child is, he is told, her little brother.
When she gives birth four months after their wedding, Gimpel is persuaded that he is the child's father. On her deathbed, Elka confesses that none of their six children are his.Literature is full of simpletons, but Gimpel is a fool of an unusual sort.His lack of sense does not involve hatching inane schemes or uttering nonsense.He consults a rabbi, who tells him, "It is written, better to be a fool all your days than for one hour to be evil." Gimpel ends up defending his faith with an arresting comparison: "Today it's your wife you don't believe; tomorrow it's God Himself you won't take stock in.""Gimpel" is, at least partly, a tribute to a classic Eastern European Jewish type, the simple, long-suffering man who accepted what the world handed him, and a dissent from the emerging, modern sensibility that argued for a more active approach to the world.When the story was written, many of Singer's fellow Yiddish writers were socialists, or idealists of other stripes.Gimpel is an orphan being raised by a grandfather who is “already bent to the grave,” so the townspeople turn him over to a baker.In such a public occupation, nearly all the villagers have had the opportunity to fool him at least once.In his Nobel lecture, Singer argued that storytellers might have the best chance of anyone to "rescue civilization." Writing fiction might not seem like the most direct way to improve the human condition, but Singer suggested that in a world where politics often failed, or worse, succeeded disastrously, intelligent, logical interactions with the world -- the kind Gimpel spent a lifetime avoiding -- may well be overrated.Isaac Bashevis Singer’s short story “Gimpel the Fool,” opens with Gimpel, the narrator, announcing that he is called a fool but does not think of himself as one.Singer's writings often dwell on the darkness of the human heart: the critic Stanley Edgar Hyman called him the "Yiddish Hawthorne." Many of his works, including two that were made into movies, "Yentl, the Yeshiva Boy" and "Enemies, a Love Story," have psychically wounded protagonists.Yentl is a rabbi's daughter with "the soul of a man and the body of a woman," who must live as a man to study Torah.