It is frequently Gimpel’s following the teachings of religion which lead him to believe things which at face value are actually false. The rabbis assure Gimpel that to believe is the most important thing. For example, when the citizens tell him the Messiah has come and his parents have ascended from the grave, the rabbi says to Gimpel, “It is written, better to be a fool all your days than for one hour to be evil.” When Elka gives birth shortly after the wedding, the schoolmaster tells Gimpel that “the very same thing had happened to Adam and Eve.” Gimpel leaves Frampol, continuing to accept everything as true, even when doing so causes him pain. The longer he lives the more he learns to believe, until even the people surrounding him can see that he is in fact a shrew man.
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Singer faintly challenges the usual associations of “fool” from the very beginning of his story. Gimpel, the main character, realizes that he has been deceived when he initially believes the villagers’ statement that “the rabbi’s wife has been brought to childbed,” but he continues to accept their stories even when they become extremely unbelievable. He accepts them because this is the only way he can achieve peace and quiet. Otherwise, they shout at him and disturb the serenity of his life, and do so until it seems that he believes what they are saying. This situation is considered ironical because Gimpel does not really believe what the people tell him, yet the villagers think he does. Consequently, it is the villagers who are the real fools because they do not see that is Gimpel who is fooling them, not the other way around. In fact, Gimpel serves to expose the stupidity of the villagers through the fact that they are foolish for spending so much time in making up, elaborating, and working together on such ridiculous stories, all to trick one man they consider a fool.
Ultimately, it is clear that Singer is trying to suggest that Gimpel is not the fool he appears to be. Rather, he is a wise man with a good heart who realistically accepts the world as it is. When the villagers compel him to marry an unfaithful woman, Elka, he goes along with it because he realizes that harmony and an easier life is ahead of him if he accepts. In addition, Gimpel eventually comes to love Elka and the children that she gives birth to. He and Elka do not do badly, financially, from their marriage. He sees that the village can afford to pay for its fun. They demand and receive an offering of 50 guilders and a collection; Gimpel possesses practical wisdom.
There are, however, more features to his wisdom which has its foundation in goodness. It is emphasized that Gimpel is a kind and generous individual, not a vicious one. What is surprising is that he remains this way, although he is aware of being fooled, aware of people’s bad intentions, and also aware of his own bodily strength. His goodness seems to be a quality that is naturally and deeply rooted within him as well as his wisdom. His wisdom is seen when he philosophizes on his approaching marriage to Elka “you can’t pass through life unscathed, nor expect to.” After she has given birth to a child, obviously not his own, four months after their marriage, he thinks, “shoulders are from God and burdens too.” This conceivably shows Gimpel’s acceptance of God’s will.
In the end, Elka appears to him in a dream saying that her betrayal does not mean that everything in the world is false, and that she had deceived herself. As a result, Gimpel realizes once and for all that faith is the most important thing. He goes through a transformation, giving away his worldly possessions and leaving Frampol to tell stories to children. What he comes to comprehend is that “there were really no lies. Whatever doesn’t happen is dreamed at night,” or it happens to someone else, or “in a century hence if not next year.”
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Overall, it is clear that Gimpel is a wise man; he looked and acted like a fool because of his innocence. He showed that his foolishness was intelligence, and due to his good heart he never let anyone suffer except himself. Gimpel could have given in to the taunting but he ignored them and accepted life as it was. Furthermore, his ability to resist evil temptation shows his belief in God as well as his virtuous heart. Forgiving everyone for what they did to him was a wise thing to do. In the end, the real fools were the people of the village, not Gimpel.
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