Thursday, November 1, 2007

"Gimpel the Fool"



Consider what Singer himself says in an author's note: "I dreamed of a humanism and ethics the basis of which would be a refusal to justify all the evils the Almighty has sent us and is preparing to bestow upon us in the future."

Has Singer moved "beyond" this position in his story "Gimpel the Fool"? Or is the story best viewed as an expression of it? Explain.

58 comments:

Josephine said...

This comment is not related to the story, but that is one awesome picture! :)

alinavid said...

I think the best way to sum up my reaction to this story is by first saying that most of my notes in the margins consisted of "Aww"'s and "Poor Gimpel!". His language is somewhat childish and definitely innocent. I love the little nicknames he gave to his child:
"I didn't want to wake the sleeping mite" (on p.1359 in the green version of the book) and "a little thing like that - why frighten a little swallow..." (same page).
I grew pretty attached to Gimpel, so when I reached the part where Elka cheats on him, I wanted to beat her up. I had begun to fall in love with their love for eachother..or at least Gimpel's love for her. I especially adored "She swore at me and cursed, and I couldn't get enough of her. What strength she had!" (1359). The respect he had for her is something most marriages lack. However, he really lived up to his nickname "Gimpel the Fool" by taking her back.

I like that Singer uses cute little phrases that aren't quite worded correctly (as is the case with most people who learn English as their second language). For instance, when he says "They're set on making me their butt" (1357) and "Well, what a cat music went up!" (1356).

The ending lines gutted me. Gimpel is so optimistic and hopeful and he TRULY believes Heaven is there and is going to be a place where, for the first time, he won't be deceived. Reading that made me want to create a time machine and travel back in time just to shield him from all the horrible people who corrupted his young life and led him to believe his only salvation lied in the afterlife.

From a Socratic Philosophy angle, there are some questions that should be asked about the psychology of his decisions:
a) Did growing up as an orphan cause him to be so clingy to his wife even after the adultery circumstances? Was she finally a person who had committed herself to him (albeit, deceitfully) and no matter what, he would just stick to her because that's the only kind of love/attention he had ever known?

Or was it the opposite...

b) Did growing up as an orphan make it easier for him to pack up and abandon his children after Elka died because it is usually a child's tragedy to repeat their parent's mistakes? Or maybe not quite their parent's mistakes...but adults with such damaged pasts, like Gimpel, usually tend to be permissive and withdrawn, causing their children to go down the same road they went.


This story interestingly fuses the realism of life (and marriage) with Gimpel's over the top optimisn. I enjoyed it :).

Apollonia said...

I don't believe that as a writer, Singer has moved beyond this idea or belief. But the story does illustrate this sense of "moving on" and accepting human ethics.
Gimpel, at the end of the story to me, leaves with a greater understanding of humanity and he realizes that if you are not accepted in one region, that doesn't mean you won’t be in another area. Gimpel embodies the theme of acceptance, regardless of his bleak experiences which is quite admirable. I believe that Singer himself as he wrote the story struggled with lack of belonging, and I think he was still struggling with this obstacle. But the story signifies it beautifully, to accept hardships as experiences, not burdens and to learn from them.

Gimpel is the type of person whom most can relate to because of the fact that he is ridiculed endlessly. He is definitely a memorable character! I felt extremely sympathetic towards him, but I was also inspired by his mere acceptance and complete understanding of human behavior.

He thought highly of himself regardless of the cruel remarks from others. He shows that moving on isn't an easy task, but it is possible for all humanity.

Lucy said...

I am sooooo very mad for Gimpel. The people in that town are simply EVIL! Of course, I still enjoyed the story though because it is so funny how poor Gimbel is so guillible.

Best Guillible Moment:
He catches his wife in bed with the apprentice after he decides not to divorce her and she distracts him by saying there was something wrong with the goat. And he actually goes to check the goat and "feel" it up! In the mean time, the apprentice escapes. -_-

Gimpel and the author (Singer) did get beyond justify the evil acts with more evil acts. Gimpel had an opportunity to get back at everyone by peeing in the dough but chose not to. There lies the moral of the story. Don't pee in dough. Haha just kidding. He believed in Heaven, still! Especially since his wife came back, obviously from hell. She was just a BLEEP! (person who sleeps around) Singer shows the reader that evil acts cannot be avenged with more evil acts.

I liked this story a lot, even thought the main character was such a weenie. If I was gimbel, i would have divorced that terrible woman looonnnggg ago.

Psychoanalysis:
There were sexual element EVERYWHERE! Ex: when gimpel gets back from the bakery, his wife never lets him in. Get it? "Never lets him in???" Furthermore, the tone of the story was cheerful and it had an element of mockery, too. You guys all read Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, right? Chaucer's tales were very much similar to this one.

Lucy said...

For Ali's Comment:

I agree. He is a huge fool for loving her. Everything that comes out of her mouth is a lie but he swallows those lies quicklier than hungry penguins swallow fish. However, I did lose respect for him though for not leaving her. The love is admirable because it is so strong that it blinds him but nonetheless it blinds him. I think I would respect him more if he had the strength and courage to just walk away from what seems like a really abusive marriage. Because of the comical tone of the story, most people miss out on the fact that an abusive marriage is pretty sad and not funny. I think I would really love the story if the main character could just win, even ONCE!

Emily said...

First of all, I really enjoyed this story because of the fact that Gimpel was gullible . Although Gimpel was easily fooled by anyone and everyone, he had a pureness and innocence to him that no one in the story possessed. He was the light in the darkness of a town filled with cruel people. I really like p.1417 when the rabbi tells Gimpel that it is "better to be a fool all your days than for one hour be evil..." This sentence mirrors Gimpel's personality and seems to be like the "moral" of the story.

I feel that the story is best viewed as an expression of Singer's view. He shows various times throughout the story that although everyone was evil, by not taking revenge Gimpel has taken his revenge. Gimpel belives in doing good and going to heaven and that is where he will go, while all the other villagers, like Elka, will most likely reap the consequnces of their evil deeds after death. Gimpel, by being moral, in a sense defeats the evil of the world and the evil people that have been created.

Psychoanalysis: This story, as Lucy mentioned, is filled with enuendos and sexual references. But, this story is also filled with people who acted on the basis of their id and did whatever they desired and gave them pleasure(tricking Gimpel). In contrast to everyone in the story, Gimpel acted in accordance with his ego and superego, always contemplating and doing what is right (although Gimpel had the chance to pee in the bread to later realizes and rationalizes that it was an evil act and did not go through with it).

austyn said...

first of all, man this story was frustrating! i wanted Gimpel to just stand up for himself and prove to everyone that he was no fool, but rather an honest, kind-hearted guy. He was a doormat the entire story, until he finally left Frampol and lived his own life.

When others would pull Gimpel's leg, they exemplified the cold nature of people and how they can easily take advantage of good people. However, Gimpel's response to this was to just go a long with it. He symbolized the goodness that is in every human being.
This story proves that every person has the capability of being good, as well as bad. It signifies how humanity can be corrupt and hurtful, but through Gimpel, it shows the hope for humanity that we might be more like him (with regards to his kindness, not his gullibility).

austyn said...

With regards to lucy's comment, i totally agree. I can't believe that Gimpel was so gullible that he believed what his wife said over what his own eyes were telling him!! After reading this, my sympathy for him was wearing out, because he should have just stepped up and said no this is wrong. In a way Gimpel was overly kind and trusting. This was a good technique that emphasized the capacity of people to be good, but overall, it was frustrating to read.

p.s.
He should have just sold the peed on food!!

Apollonia said...

I agree with Lucy's comment on the best guillible moment, I mean come on like that wasn't obvious!!
When he did that I wondered if he would ever stand up for himself? I do think that he should have taken the chance to pee in the dough, how could he pass that up?!? Hahaha just kidding! But at least he learned to not see himself as a fool.

jessica samiley said...

First of all, I'd like to say that I enjoyed this story as well! I felt so bad for Gimpel!

I think this story teaches people a moral lesson. Gimpel, although extremely gullible, symbolizes innocence and purity which is lacking in this world. The people in his town made fun of him and ridiculed him - and disregarded his kindness and compassion for others. I know it sounds cheesy - but he was like the "light" in his town. Everyone else was mean and deceitful, but Gimpel never fell into their trap, even though he had many opportunities to do so!

I think this story also shows Gimpel's deep faith in God. Many people were cruel to him, yet he never really wavered with what he believed in. I agree with Ali, when she said for Gimpel, Heaven is going to the place where he won't be deceived. No matter how cruel people on earth were to him, it doesn't matter, because he still has hope and faith in God.

(on a random note...i agree with jojo, "the office" pic is pretty awesome! =) )

Olive said...

Okay, first I have to say I love these two quotes:

"But I'm the type that bears it and says nothing. What's one to do? Shoulders are from God, and burdens too" (1420).

"However, I resolved that I would always believe what I was told. What's the good of not believing? Today it's your wife you don't believe; tomorrow it's God Himself you won't take stock in" (1422).

I don't think Gimpel was as great a fool as everyone thought. I think he just was desperate to believe, to have faith in almost everything, as the second quote exemplifies. He is more afraid of not believing in something than he is in being gullible and made to look like a fool. I think he knows he's hearing lies, but he's trying to keep the order of the community and to be his part in it.

I know everyone liked Gimpel, but I kind of got angry at him for not smacking some of those people. They really deserved it, and he apparently is not a firm believer in giving what people deserve. He's too busy waiting for karma - but sometimes you have to take karma into your own hands! (I'm not violent, I swear.)

The story is best viewed as expression of it! The hope of faith put in everything is because at some point it'll happen, no matter what it is. This theory of an impenetrable humanism that withstands all evil is shown through the story because Gimpel's goodness and faith pulls him through all his hardships. His strong hope and faith, his idea that everything you hear will eventually happen anyway, justifies everything God throws at us.

To add onto Ali's Socratic Phil questions:
Does Gimpel really have faith, or is he trying to justify or help raise his position of the fool?
Is Elka representative of the constant evil in his life he is plagued with (her face was black!), or is she representative of perhaps Gimpel and how he finds his way to his realization (her face becomes clean!)

Ooh, and I agree with Apollonia. Gimpel's just a poor fool (ha!) who wants to be accepted. Maybe that's why he continues in his role as the fool. Maybe he just wants to be a part of the mean losers, because he's known by everyone for his gullibility. At least everyone knows him, right?

Christina said...

I completely relate to Gimpel because I can be so gullible at times. For example, when I first heard people saying that the word gullible was not in the dictionary, I believed them so much that I actually wanted to see for myself, so I went and checked. XD But although Gimpel is more gullible than most, he was not a complete fool because sometimes he was aware that what people were telling him was false, he just felt that he had no other choice than to believe them (top of page 1356- green book).

Also, as a comment on what Ms. Lagrimas was talking about today, I believe that we CAN trust the narrator because in the first line of the story, he admits, “I am Gimpel the fool.”

In response to the question, I believe that Singer slightly moves beyond his position that consisted of dreaming of a society that refuses to justify evil acts. Although in the end, Gimpel does not follow through with his plan, he does pee in the dough as a means of “revenging” those who have taken advantage of him. However, because he does not go through with it and because he believes in God’s judgment (beginning of part IV or bottom of 1363 in green book), he does still support his original position.

Olive said...

Man, it's long. I'm sorry. And I also like the picture!

Psst... Scrubs is on in an hour!

Annemarie said...

I tried started off answering the question, but I can’t. In the first pages of the story, I was feeling sorry for Gimpel, but as he kept saying, “It was bound to happen” (1421), “But what was I to do” (1418 and many other pages), and all the other times he speaks, always in a “What” or “If” tone, I couldn’t stand it. I don’t like the town, but I don’t like Gimpel even more for not standing up in his own defense. He is extremely passive and gullible, the two traits of a doormat. He could have chosen not to marry the evil Elka, but he was too passive to say no. Gimpel was then condemned to 20 years of bliss. When he starts to form any sort of opinion, he reasons his way out. I’m beginning to think he is mentally not there. Even I would go crazy questioning everything and then questioning the questions I just asked myself. By going in circles in his mind, he has become mentally dizzy.

Singer’s quote confuses me; I had to spend some time dissecting it (with no luck). I’m still kind of confused but…
dreamed of ethics=refusal to justify God’s evils (God cannot do this)
immoral actions=justify God’s evils (God can do this)
Here I try:
If ethics is the refusal to justify God’s evils, then immoral actions do. So, would justify mean “Okay, God, please send us more”?
The story can be viewed as an expression to Singer’s position. Ethics do not apply to Gimpel because he cannot tell the difference. He goes through the motions, swayed by other people. The town is immoral by itself. Even the rabbi’s daughter makes fun of Gimpel. Knowing that Elka is pregnant, they easily convince Gimpel of marriage. Having an unstable brain take care of children is just not sensible.
This is ironic because the town is Jewish and should hold God in their thoughts. Thereby their actions should be ethical.

Jackie said...

I think “Gimpel the Fool” is very much a reflection of Singer’s dream of humanism. The story unflinchingly presents the town as insensitive, cruel people who take pleasure in conning Gimpel; nowhere is there an attempt to justify the town’s actions, and Gimpel’s own quiet acceptance of his treatment only underscores the fact there CAN be no logical justification for any of the evils he goes through.

Although the townspeople’s actions and especially Gimpel’s nonexistent response to them really frustrated me the whole time I was reading, the story really presents an accurate – though unpleasant and slightly exaggerated – truth of human nature. Although I kept asking myself, “Who would have the heart to fool such an innocent man?” the truth is people like Elka, the rabbi’s daughter, or the apprentice do exist in the world, in rather more significant numbers, sadly, than Gimpel.

Singer exaggerates and contrasts opposite sides of human nature: the innocence and gullibility of a child that certain people like Gimpel carry throughout their lives, and the maliciousness and worldliness others learn as they go through life. I agree with Jessica on how Gimpel “symbolizes the innocence and purity which is lacking in this world.” Too bad there aren’t more people like Gimpel in the world :[

emily said...

In response to Olive's comment...
First wow that is pretty violent (jk), but at times i was also mad at Gimpel for not standing up for himself. Although, as the story unravels, by not taking revenge, Gimpel becomes more likeable. By being so honest and good, i seem to trust him more as a narrator (as Christina mentioned). I mean I would not have trusted any of the other characters in this story to be the narrator; they could have been tricking the reader too.

Annemarie =) said...

"Gimpel, at the end of the story to me, leaves with a greater understanding of humanity and he realizes that if you are not accepted in one region, that doesn't mean you won’t be in another area."

Sound familiar? I stole it from Apollonia.

This is a really good observation and oh so true.
I was mad at the younger Gimpel, but I guess he had to go through decades of ridicule and staying in the dark (hehe, in his gullibility and his evil wife with the black face =) to get to the point where he can recount the things he has gone through. At the end of the story, he doesn't should like a weirdo. Leaving Frampol, made the world of difference. He

Jackie said...

“I know everyone liked Gimpel, but I kind of got angry at him for not smacking some of those people. They really deserved it, and he apparently is not a firm believer in giving what people deserve. He's too busy waiting for karma - but sometimes you have to take karma into your own hands! (I'm not violent, I swear.)”

I completely agree with Olive (and I shamelessly admit that I AM a violent person ;])! Although Gimpel’s innocence did tug at my heartstrings, there is a difference between being the bigger person and being stepped on and kicked around like a doormat. I really admire Gimpel’s innocence, but if people never stood up for themselves and just quietly accepted their fate all the time, there would never be a start towards changing the evils in the world. Like Gandhi said (though I’m positive he didn’t mean it in this context), “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” If that means peeing in and contaminating the town’s food supply, so be it.

Christina said...

As a fellow Socratic philosopher and psychology student (haha), I agree with Ali’s questions. Did Gimpel lack some sort of attachment in his childhood and is therefore compensating by attaching to his wife, even though she treats him horribly?
It is understandable that Gimpel may have felt the need to attach to someone because he never had the opportunity as a child, but come on, there is a line that needs to be drawn… and cheating definitely falls past that line.

It also leaves us to question who DID bring him up? How was he raised and did that cause him to be so gullible or did that affect his personality? Or like insanity, can a gullible personality be hereditary? And if so, how come we are not told more about his parents?

charlotte said...

First off I want to say that I really liked the story. I admired that he never got angry with people no matter what they said to him or did to him. My favorite part would have to be near the end when he talks about how he tells stories to his grandchildren. To me, his "spinning yarns" was what endeared him most.
In response to Singer's quote, I would have to say it seems as though Singer has moved on. Gimpel was treated terribly but he didn't hurt anyone at all. He couldn't even go through with selling the bread with the urine in the dough! He didn't fight back and say that there was no justification for the evils, Gimpel just said that in heaven he could not be deceived. He also goes on to say that when he dies he will go joyfully (1426). I think that by writing this story and showing that Gimpel held no grudges, Singer was showing that he too was able to get past his prior position. "But I'm the type that bears it and says nothing. Another quote from the story that I would say displays this idea of moving on would be, "What's one to do? Shoulders are from God, and burdens too" (1420).
From a Jungian point of view I looked for a hero, and to me I found that Gimpel is a hero. He expressed such patience and care, especially in that he loved all of the children even though he probably knew none of them were his. In Jungian theory there's the idea of having an inner mask and an outer mask as well, but with Gimpel his two masks are the same because he hides nothing. In my opinion, I see that his honesty and optimism show his individualization.

charlotte said...

For Olive's comment:
I completely agree with the idea that Gimpel is not as big a fool as it would seem! He's wise in his own way and I got mad at him sometimes too. Some of those people really did deserve a punch or slap or something. I think I would have fed the apprentice some of that "special" bread. I also agree that Gimpel had a desire to believe in something and that's why he was so patient with those awful people.

Ali said...

(woops, I spelled optimism* wrong in my first comment.)

While I agree with Jackie and Olive about Gimpel needing to 'grow a pair' and just go through with serving the pee-contaminated food, I'm actually glad Gimpel had a conscience. I mean, I agree revenge is sweet (and maybe this is sort of an extreme example) but when kids get made fun in highschool, no one would call it justification when they end up pulling a Columbine. Same thing for Gimpel. Yes he got made fun of and deceived, but he got through it without resorting to violence and revenge. I hope my extreme comparison made sense..

And going along with what Austyn said about Gimpel finally living his own life by leaving Frampol, that entire concept reminds me strongly of The Awakening. Like Gimpel, what's-her-name trades in her old oppressive life and her children in exchange for freedom and a new start. Just goes to show you how important that little thing called freedom is =]

brittanym said...

This story left me feeling very mixed emotions toward Gimpel. I felt really bad for him at first because the people in his town were so meant to him and he was the butt of all of their pranks and stories. Towards the end though I started to get really frustrated because I wanted him to just get up and leave!! He continued believing people repeatedly even though he knew within himself that they were lying to him. I was so glad when he finally decided to leave after his wife died to start a new life.

I think that the story does present an example of Singer's quote on humanism. Even though Gimpel was tricked and made a fool of time and time again, he never was vengeful or mean towards the people who were fooling him. He was such a good hearted person that he never tried to get back at them at all!(even though at times I really wanted him to.) I think that a perfect example of hi not seeking revenge on others was when he accepted the children that is wife bore him as his own even though he knew that they weren't his. He could have just abandoned them or left their mother but he stuck it out until she died. I think that characteristic of not seeking revenge on others made Gimpel such a lovable character.

Caitlin said...

First of all, I'd just like to say how entertaining I found this story. However, I do find it hard to believe that someone can be THAT gullible. For example, when Gimpel's wife tells him to go outside and check on the goat, he follows her order without doubting her motives for even a split second. And how could anyone trick himself into believing that what he clearly saw with his own two eyes was a mere hallucination? In this sense, Gimpel really frustrates me and I would like to slap him in the face for letting so many people step all over him.
Singer does present a resfusal to justify evil in the story. Gimpel refuses to take revenge on those who have treated him with such cruelty throughout the years. Like Emily said, he will truly be getting revenge when he is in heaven for doing nothing but good in his life.

From the point of view of women, it seems that Singer is presenting women in a negative light. Elka cheats on Gimpel with over 6 different people and goes to hell for her deeds. However, Singer does exemplify a belief that women hold a strong power over men. Gimpel enters the relationship assuming that he will be treated as a king. He says, "when you're married the husband's the master." It becomes clear that Elka really wears the pants in the family. Her power over Gimpel keeps him the laughing stock of all of Frampol.

brittanym said...

I completely relate to Apple's comment on the ending of the story. I agree that Gimpel shows that if people are mean to you or don't like you in one place, there are plenty of other places you can travel to. I also agree that Gimpel did leave Frampol with a greater understanding of humanity and the different ways that human beings relate to each other. The lesson about not letting people's negative comments affect the way you see yourself is what I believe Gimpel's character is trying to show the readers.

Josephine said...

I love what Gimpel says in the end, "When the time comes I will go joyfully. Whatever may be there, it will be real, without complication, without ridicule, without deception. God be praised: there even Gimpel cannot be deceived." I love that Gimpel accepts things for what they are, having such optimism and high spirits. I love that he is not able to be crushed, only dusting his shoulders off.

I love Gimpel's character! Although he's somewhat of a fool for always believing, there was something I loved about his gullibility. I saw him as the small speck of goodness and optimism for life within the lousy townspeople of Frampol. What really breaks my heart is seeing Gimpel treat Elka and her "brother" with love and respect like a true family, only to be disrespected and mistreated. What I didn't like about Gimpel is that he was so accepting that he just let Elka cheat on him. why didn't he divorce her?! All the excuses she gave him in the beginning about the baby and the affair were so ridiculous, yet he turned the other cheek.

Anyway, I think Singer's quote mirrors Gimpel's actions in his life. Gimpel had good intentions with a good heart, never wanting to hurt anyone. He never sought revenge even though it came across his mind, he was never able to follow through with it. He even had to bury the bread, which I think maybe he's burying a part of himself with the bread (quite literally if you think about it. ew?). Perhaps by burying the bread, he's burying his past. After all, he does leave his life in the town for a new one, a better one.

Caitlin said...

Jackie is right when she says we have to keep in mind the truth of human nature. There are more people who act like the citizens of Frampol then there are that act as forgiving as Gimpel. Most people would be judgemental and seek revenge, but Gimpel's kind-hearted spirit allows him to look passed his neighbors' flaws.

In response to Lucy's comment, I do agree that the humor seems to overshadow the fact that it is sad when people enter such an abusive relationship. I'm sure almost all of us who read it couldn't help but feel sorry for poor Gimpel. And Lucy is also right about the sexual implication when Singer says his wife never "lets him in." That was the first thing I thought when i read that line in the story. =]

Josephine said...

I definitely agree with what Apollonia said that Gimpel "leaves with a greater understanding of humanity and realizes that if you are not accepted in one region, that doesn't mean you won't be in another area."

Gimpel didn't stay in the town, he moved. What I loved so much is that he dropped his entire life, his family, his work, to find his heaven. He had such hope to find his heaven, his freedom (as Ali mentioned).

Lucy =) said...

speaking of violent which lead to fools =) i was just flipping channels and guess who was on "Are you smarter than a 5th grader?"
that's right... your favorite American runner-up CLAY AIKEN ehh (however you spell that)

Before I change the channel w/ disgust at his face, I heard that the studio they were filming it in was the same American idol studio he performed in eons ago...

Clay says: Yes this is a lucky stage, the very American idol stage... which means i'm going to get really close and then just lose. HAHHAHAH does anyone find that funny? ok yes? hands???


ehem ok back to Gimpel:
GET A BACKBONE!
STAND UP AND BE A MAN(this one applies to Clay, too!)

Lucy said...

To Caitlin,

naughty, naughty =P

jessica samiley said...

I agree with jackie and olive! I mean, yeah I still felt bad for him because everyone was stepping all over him... but if it was me (and I'm a pretty nice person =P), I would have totally slapped/kicked/hit/screamed at all those people if they treated me THAT horribly (and I SWEAR I'm not a violent person!). But I think what makes him such a great and lovable guy is that he didn't resort to those things. He got up and left Frampol which is probably the first thing he ever did to stand up for himself. By leaving Frampol he's telling the town that he's not going to let them step all over him ever again! I guess that's his way of "getting back" at them for all the mean stuff they've said and done to him - which shows he is the bigger and better person! =)

Cherie said...

I enjoyed this story also, but there were many times in the story when I wanted to stand up for Gimpel. I like that he gave everyone the benefit of the doubt,but he was obviously being taken advantage of. It is nice that Gimpel has an optimistic and innocent outlook on life. Even though he is tricked time after I time, he eventually learns all the different personalities people can have. Instead of struggling to fit in and being mistreated by all the cruel town people, I'm glad that he takes off.
I would say that Singer has moved "beyond" the position of struggling to fit in ,since he is now able to see the good with the bad. Even though Gimpel remains not wanting to harm anyone I believe that he left with an experience that opened his eyes to reality.

angelica said...

i think that this story exemplifies this position.
Everything in the story is somehow related to God.
When he talks about how his wife's "brother" beat him, he says, "shoulders are from God, and burdens too." that just made me think, no they're not. Burdens come from other people who cause suffering. Still he doesn't use humanism to justify "the evils" instead he places all the blame on God.

Still, the story confuses me a little bit. Towards the end he praises God. And he implies that once in heaven, he won't be tricked anymore. So does he respect God, or is God the cause of his problems.

All i'm sure of is that I was angry for Gimpel. For the fact that everyone took advantage of his naivety. The only person who seemed good was the rabbi. He could see through all the lies. He didn't treat Gimpel as a fool either, but he came him advice. This led me to believe that Gimpel sees God as more good because that which is related to him is good. People, who treat him badly are those who are the real fools, as the rabbi states.

From a new critic point of view:
When people are shouting at him, the author uses quick short sentences. There is this piling on of comments after comments, which help fuel this frustration with the cruelty with which the town treats Gimpel. The use of bible passages, help integrate the story with God, placing him as a central figure even though he cannot be seen. Most of the sentences are short, which enforce Gimpel's child-like attitude and inclination to believe what everyone tells him. The constant dialouge shows how the story is centered around his relationship with those around him. The theme is religious? i don't know i'm not sure. But the moral is that Gimpel will be rewarded because he has acted more human than the rest of the town. And his child-like essence relates to that bible quote that says the children are the kingdom of God ...

Cherie said...

I agree with Lucy about Gimpel's need to get a back bone. I didn't like that he wasn't able to stand up for himself even with facts right in front of him. It's hard to believe that he would fall for these jokes time after time.But atleast he finally left town =]

angelica said...

in response to :
charlotte.
you're right he never really got mad no matter what they said. and this is a quality that is hard to find these days. i mean i've wished many times that i could just not care when people called me foolish. its a bit of a blessing really to be able to take it all in without feeling shameful.

lucy.
first of all, i like how you write. haha. its like i can hear your voice. CREEPY!!! anyways.... i thought the goat thing was pretty funny too. i just wanted to say, Gimpel, you're such a dork but you're cute making sure the goats ok and everything. :) hehehe

and yes that woman was a really naughty girl.
but in way she was kind of clever.
'what lad?' An evil spirit has taken root in you and dazzles your sigh.' yep yep, blame it on demons, afterall, he is pretty superstitious.

Jessica O said...

Okay...
before I start, excuse my typing, sometimes my fingers don't move as fast as my mind... =]

The beginning of the story just felt so light and airy...it made me read it SUPER fast, and the word FOOL is just way to overused, and yet, it wasn't a distraction Anyway, this totally helps express Singer's view, I mean, SERIOUSLY, I jsut wanted to shout at GIMPEL and tell him to be a MAN allready, like hit someone, just get mad....DO SOMETHING! Seriously! Singer, throughout the story seems to be stuck on his beliefs. Even after all he endures, Gimpel continues to have an overall optimism that is quite frankly so frustrating...yet, time and time again, Singer demonstrates his "refusal" to justify evil. POOR GIMPEL...little squirt...but SERISOULY, even I wanted to take revenge for him...oh well, becuase it all works out when he just DROPS EVERYTHING AND LEAVES

Either way, I liked the story, and it was totally such a shift in mood compared to "The fall of the hosue of usher" and "the yellow wallpaper"

PeACE out

Jessica O said...

OKAY
so JACKIE, I totllay agree with you 100%, SERIOUSLY, GIMPEL... ARGH! I mean, i felt bad for gimpel, but seriously, I wanted to go up and slap him... he shouldn't let people walk all over him...revenge is SWEET, sometimes... =]


AND LUCY, I just thought I'd say you're funny... you should go pee in the DOUGH...

OKAY, so here we go, so after readin apollnia's, it totally gave me a differenst perspective, and I have to say that now, I can see where you're comming from when you say leaves with a greater understanding of humanity and realizes that if you are not accepted in one region, that doesn't mean you won't be in another area." BUT STILL, i think he's being just a little TOO optimistic if he erally thinks there's going to be another place where he can find happiness... I'm not saying he has a problem, but you know how when ONE person has problems with EVERYONE else, it's usually THAT person and NOT EVERYONE else... well maybe it's kinda the same thing... ACTUALLY, I'm starting to not feel so bad for him... he's just TOo naïve and who know's maybe he's jsut getting what he had comming...

ALL YOU GIMPEL LOVERS DON'T GET MAD AT ME =]

PeACE in

ashley said...

This story was very entertaining. Singer definitely engages the reader into the story, as we sympathize with Gimpel, and root for him because he is the "underdog', in a sense. Gimpel is very naive and gullible. He believes what others tell him, and this trust in human nature, serves as both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing in that it is what makes him good and pure. But on the other hand, it allows people to take advantage of him. He often said, "what did i stand to lose." It seemed that even though people were cruel to him, he seemed to try and give them the benefit of fthe doubt, and always search for the good. When he sees his wife in a bed with another man, he convinces himself that he hallucinated and that it is he, not his wife who is at fault. He says his misfortune is that he doesn't have it in him to be angry. While reading the story, though, one is hoping gimpel will stand up for himself and get angry. In regards to the title, perhaps it is called "gimpel the fool" not only because he was gullible and allowed others to take advantage of him, but from a reader's point of view, he is a fool for not taking revenge. However, he represents human nature in its pure form, and "refuses to justify all the evils the almighty has sent us." in regards to ali's comments, i completely agree about the ending..."Gimpel is so optimistic and hopeful and he TRULY believes Heaven is there and is going to be a place where, for the first time, he won't be deceived." Gimpel says, "what's the good of not beleiving?" this faith and hope to live by is beneficial. it allows him to work toward his final goal, Paradise.

Elizabeth L. said...

I need some clarification for given author's note, but what I've come to understand is that the prompt is asking whether or not Singer's gotten past finding it necessary to justify all the wild things that happen within the human experience. I say yes.

Gimpel knows he is a fool; he owns up to it from the very beginning. He knows when he is being had, and because of that I see no reason to disagree with the way he handles himself throughout everything he is subjected to. I found him absolutely endearing. Rooted underneath what might appear as gullibility is a willingness to surrender to the unknown. "In the first place, everything is possible..." (1356). And really, it's true. I too am passive by nature, so I suppose that is why I'm so quick to agree with the way he composes himself. Regardless of what happens to him, Gimpel lives his life by the Golden Rule. And as Ali mentioned in her first comment, he acknowledges the bigger picture and knows that there is a time and place hereafter that he will go where deception is nonexistent. Whether you believe in a place called heaven or not, death is truth, and Gimpel understands this.

I guess I'll just stop here, I still have a fair share of other work to do. And I'm not proofreading this either.

Elizabeth L. said...

"I know everyone liked Gimpel, but I kind of got angry at him for not smacking some of those people. They really deserved it, and he apparently is not a firm believer in giving what people deserve. He's too busy waiting for karma - but sometimes you have to take karma into your own hands! (I'm not violent, I swear.)"

Quite a few people seem to share Olive's sentiments, and while Gimpel's cases are obviously exaggerated, if everyone were to act on their passionate whims, get upset, lash out, seek revenge, etc., then this world would be much worse off than it is. The world neeeeeds more Gimpels, and for that matter it needs a drastic reduction of Elkas (and the like). Hm, there surely is a comfortable midpoint between Gimpel's absolute passivity and peoples' suggestions that he seek a violent revenge...

Karen said...

Alas, the mighty Steve is getting the glory he deserves.

The way I understood Singer's quote, although I may not have at all, is that he dreams of refusing to accept life's evil and suckiness by counteracting it with humanism and ethics. OR that justification for evil and suckiness cannot exist because humanism and ethics exist. Either way the story would be an expression of the quote. Gimpel is the epitome of humanism, too filled with the milk of human kindness and inhuman stupidity. He blinds himself to "all the evils the Almighty has sent him and is preparing to bestow upon him in the future" and refuses to accept them by instead turning to his undiscriminatory love for people and his belief in their goodness. i.e. The Almighty sends him 'an evil' when he catches Elka cheating and they seperate and she has yet another bastard child, but instead of being completely infuriated he goes back to her and upon seeing the child says "I saw the newborn child's face and loved it as soon as I saw it--immediately--each tiny bone." Ridiculous. Yes, it's just an innocent baby but who thinks that right upon seeing the fruit of deceit that someone has created by stealing the body and egg of YOUR love. Not me. But Gimpel needs no reason to love. Even a reason not to love won't stop him, as exemplified by that adoration for all the bastards and nasty Elka. He sleeps on flour and is the town's play-thing, but he goes on loving the people he loves and believing anything he hears. It seems that no matter what the Almighty (aka Steve) throws at him, his humanism and innocence will go on unchanged.

karen said...

"there is a difference between being the bigger person and being stepped on...if people never stood up for themselves and just quietly accepted their fate all the time, there would never be a start towards changing the evils in the world."

Yes Jackie, Gimpel was passive to the point where there was no use to his existence. Well no, you're right, he did provide entertainment for the town, I'll give you that. But really, what a waste of human mass and space. Good riddance, Gimpel. You will not be missed.

elizabethbartolini said...

i think the story is an expression of creating a value system that would justify all that happens. so many times gimpel said that he would say something or do something, but he never did. he always accepted it or thought that he was in the wrong. in the beginning, the lack of action definitely stemmed from the lack of confidence, but the more he compromised his feelings and gave into everyone else's opinions, the more he understood. and ironically, because he dismissed, and got rid of his opinion, he developed one. as he went through life and experienced things without a bias, he was able to come to an understanding that made sense to him, for why things happened. and he was all right with that.

elizabethbartolini said...

also, i agree with jojo on gimpel's character. i really liked his innocence and his stages of understanding. in the beginning he was "understanding" everybody else's opinion because he had the type of personality that wasn't antagonistic, but later one, when he realized that people were deceiving him, it didn't bother him; he just let it slide. i think that's a really hard thing to do, and because he was able to do it, i think that's really admirable. even though people were stepping on him left and right, and he probably should've done something about that, he wanted to keep the peace. so i say yayy gimpel : ) he definitely deserves the contentment he feels at the end.

and i loove the last line too! he knows that he did well on earth, and he'll reap the rewards in heaven, whatever and wherever that may be. but he feels gooood, so i feel good : )

amanda said...

In regard to Jessica O.'s second comment, I don't think Gimpel's decision to live as a traveling beggar for the rest of his life was because of his naivete or overly-optimistic outlook. I don't think that he moves from place to place in search of "finding happiness," but instead moves from place to place because (like Apple says) he comes to a greater understanding of humanity. I think that the greater understanding that he comes to comprehend is that he finds acceptance in living this way, no one judges him based on his title "the Fool" because no one knows his past. He expresses that he can see now with open eyes, because of his worldly experience, that "there really were no lies" ( p. 1425). I think that it is beautiful that even after all of the deceit and betrayal that Gimpel endures, he still has the ability to give people the benefit of the doubt because "whatever doesn't really happen is dreamed at night" (p.1425).

As for Singer's position in this story, I believe that this story is a pure expression of that remark. Because of our nature, human beings have a predisposition to want to take revenge upon those who do wrong to us. We believe that we ourselves must "justify all the evils" by getting revenge. The way that Gimpel wholeheartedly forgives time and time again does not necessarily suggest that he just wimps out and lets everyone walk all over him like a door mat, but instead demonstrates another mindset, another way to approach "revenge." Although the entire audience may have lost faith in the protagonist because of his apparent "weak-mindedness," I believe that he has transcended the typical mold and mind frame of human's longing to take vengeance; he is the epitome of one who lives out the "kill-them-with-kindness" mentality. Even though Gimpel seems to have never stood up for himself, I think that the fact that he forgives those who hurt him ultimately is a justification for all the evils because once he forgives them, the issue is no longer of concern to Gimpel and the person who committed the wrong-doing now must live with that responsibility on their plate to apologize to him.

mary said...

the story was sooo goood, sooo goood.

i believe that singer did not justify the acts of evil, but just made Gimpel a simple-minded man: he was not hot-headed, he was kind, he accepted people as they presented themselves. I think Gimpel knew when someone was lying to him but he chose to believe because there was no harm in not believing it; I also think that at some points, he was just being the more mature person and didn't let the teasing and taunting affect him in a negative way. I don't think Singer is justifying evil acts, but is focusing on Gimple's faith in people. Although, at some points, I was thinking, 'Gimpel, don't be stupid. Go beat up the apprentice, kick your wife out of the house, take the children and move away.'

But Gimpel had the incredible quality of being able to...forgive people. Gimpel didn't formally reconcile with Elka--until the end--or with the apprentice, but he worked with them and didn't hold a grudge. He chose to look past their deceitfulness and on the brighter side. He was a compassionate person who put others before himself, and I believe that was Singer's objective: to show the strength of being passive.

joanna said...

I'm going to start off by saying that I feel I'm going to make quite a few references to pop culture in this response, just because they seem so fitting.

In the story's opening paragraph, Gimpel says "I think to myself: Let it pass. So they take advantage of me." That made me think of the Beatles' song "Let It Be," which seems like a very fitting song to apply to Gimpel as a whole. Ex. and when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me, shines until tomorrow, let it be...
Although towards the end Gimpel displays some form of attempted retaliation with his peeing in the bread scheme, he maintains a rather zen attitude towards his life, essentially, let it be.

Another thing that came to my mind while reading was that Gimpel could be related to Forrest Gump. Forrest also has this innocent outlook towards the world and its inhabitants, but the main difference is that Gump's innocence does not hinder success, while Gimpel's naivete just makes him a laughing stock. So going back to that quote of Gimpel's I mentioned earlier, I think that Gimpel exemplifies the idea that there is a refusal to justify all the evils sent. His being a fool notwithstanding, his inner self is rather indicative of a human who is somewhat in tune with the way the world works, but who is (for the most part) smart enough to know when to let it be.

What infuriates me about the story is how everyone takes advantage of Gimpel, lying to him and laughing at his guillibility. Like he said "What did I stand to lose by looking?" The lies being told to him could be true, but he wouldn't know unless he verifies it himself. Even when he tricks himself into believing that his wife is not in actuality a whore (as we all know she is), there's still an understanding to his actions. I know that personally, there have been quite a few times when I forced myself to believe something because the truth is much too unpleasant, even if the rest of the world is screaming "No!You're wrong! How can you think that?" Simply put, all Gimpel's actions are justified in my mind for one reason or another.

And also, I think that those who come of as "slow" or "foolish" may in actuality be the ones who have a firmer grasp on what life is really about. =]

joanna said...

i must say that i agree with jackie's comment about how Gimpel's naivete is contrasted by the other people in his world. it's like a cosmic meter of innocence and evil, and that there has to be a balance of it, perhaps not evenly distributed among the people, but equal in sum.

and to gelly (who i can totally hear in her comments as she says she can hear lucy), yeah, that Elka is one tricky girl. and even though it's natural to want to hate her, the lying whore, you have to give her props for her ability to keep Gimpel in the dark. well, he pretty much wants to be kept in the dark, but she's got some wonderful alibis and distractors up her sleeve. and i don't know why, but i wanted to laugh at her for confessing about the children to Gimpel on her deathbed, it's just something i'd really expect from someone with her personality, the deathbed confession.

mary said...

i agree with jojo when she said "by burying the bread, he's burying his past." i think the main reason he just 'sucked it up' was because he knew he had responsibilities, like feeding the children he loved and the wife he loved, therefore he couldn't have just exploded and left everything behind. when he buries the bread, i think at that point he realizes that the kids can take care of themselves now and that the time has COME for him to move on. He personally feels that his leave is justified because he has taken care of what needed to be taken care of; he can truly release the hardships of his past and move forward.

ohh and i enjoyed reading all the commments! haha, they're so funny.

mary said...

i can totally hear the old Gimpel at the end! that really warmed my heart.

mary said...

Jackie and Karen, that is mean. Gimple will be missed. I will miss Gimple and his kindess. He would forgive you guys for those harsh words.

said...

First of all, I just wanted to say "poor little guy." If I was a man with a wife that emotionally abusive, I would've fed her to the lions.
I felt so bad for him when Elka was dying and told him that none of the children were his. I mean a blow to the head is two, maybe three. But to tell Gimpel that all six children were not his, well she might as well have stabbed him in the heart right then and there. I sort of want to detract from the seemingly universal name-calling, yet...I won't. In the words of Andy in the 40-year old virgin, "she was a ho, for sho'."
I admire him for keeping his love for Elka despite all of the hardships she put him through. He was truly loyal and that just made me love him even more. Although, several times I was tempted to smack him myself for not opening his eyes and seeing all the deceit in his life.
In regards to marxist criticism, I would say that Elka is definitely someone who thinks higher of herself than what she really is. Gimpel of course is at the bottom of the tier, not just in his own family but in society as well throughout most of the story (since later on he is regarded as one of the richest men in Frampol).

RESPONSE:
Of course I knew that Lucy, being a Freudian, would find sexual elements scattered everywhere throughout the story. Sad to say I found the same ones she did and possibly more ;] jk

Although I did like Gimpel, I agree with Olivia when she stated she was angry with him for not smacking some of those people. I wished for him to be more of a man to stand up to all of those who did him wrong, but I suppose that would make the story too cliche, so I suppose I'm okay with the outcome.

P.S. I really liked this story :]

said...

Also, in response to Ms. Lagrimas' question, I believe Singer did move beyond the position in the story because in some weird way, this story does refuse to justify all the evils. Elka couldn't leave the world without apologizing. HA!

shruthy said...

Everyone has already said everything that I wanted to say...
But...
I pity Gimpel as well. He did not know any better; he simply was not able to convince the townspeople that his wife was cuckolding him. It's not like they had semen testing or DNA testing back then; i believe this story was not set in recent times.
I really enjoyed the last page, which showed another side to Gimpel- that he was not a fool. What really struck me was that Gimpel was able to forgive his wife even though she had been cheating on him all these years and did not even know who their father was. I felt so sorry for Gimple when he was sleeping a flour sac; I do not feel angry at Gimple only sorry for him. The poor fellow did not have too many other options

Jackie said...

"Jackie and Karen, that is mean. Gimple will be missed. I will miss Gimple and his kindess. He would forgive you guys for those harsh words."

LMAO!
I love you Mary!

elizabeth l. said...

shruthi did spell her name wrong. that's great

Josephine said...

i was laughing for like a minute reading shruthi's comment. "it's not like they had semen testing"

hahahahahah.. still laughing

Mari said...

In the story, Singer shows resignation to the existing code of ethics and humanism. Through Gimpel's child-like and innocent demeanor, the resignation is blatantly shown. In the very beginning of the story Gimpel relates to the reader that he is no bothered by all of the names that he is given. He matter-of-factly states "they gave me while I was still in school. I had seven names in all: imbecile, donkey, flax-head, dope, glump, ninny, and fool.

In response to Lucy's comment, I agree that the people in the town excessively mean to Gimpel. They took advantage of his ever enduring innocence and the fact that he is very gullible.