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Deception in Gimpel the Fool

Deception is the process through which someone tells an untrue story or gives untrue information with the sole purpose of misleading someone for personal gains. Gimpel the Fool is a story by Isaac Singer, an exploratory short story centered around a young man called Gimpel, an orphan-tuned baker living in the small town of Frampol. Everyone in the village knows that he is gullible and a fool, and uses the chance to fool him around to make fun of him. He is easily deceived by his neighbors and later his adulterous wife, Elka as he believes that everything is possible. His strong belief in possibility allowed the neighbors to extend the belief that he was a fool, thus playing all tricks on him. The characters in Gimpel the Fool exemplify the theme of deceit through their actions.

Gimpel’s neighbors started making imaginary stories around the Biblical starting of life and the conclusion of human life. Most of his neighbors gave him stories about imaginary births in the neighborhood or around the people he already knew about. One neighbor told him ‘Gimpel, the rabbi gave birth to a calf in the seventh month.’ The story was quite deceptive because, in human terms, no one can give birth to a calf. Another neighbor told him ‘Gimpel, a cow flew over the roof and laid brass egg (Singer 994),’ giving similar impossibilities as those of the rabbi giving birth to calf. Other neighbors were more into deceiving Gimpel about the end times and the rupture as one of them was quoted saying ‘The Messiah has come. The dead have arisen (Singer 994).’ Since he had a strong faith in Messiah and his next coming as described in the Bible, the story of rapture was aimed at scaring him. Yet, some neighbors were into more mundane imaginary stories involving his parents as one of them said, ‘Your father and mother have stood up from the grave. They’re looking for you (Singer 995).’ Such lies were both concerning and disheartening especially because they touched key elements of Gimpel’s life. He believed in the Bible’s description of impossibilities such as dead rising from graves, people giving birth to weird things, and the second coming of Messiah. Therefore, although the stories were fundamentally wrong and almost impossible, Gimpel’s belief system convinced him that they could be true based on his mantra that ‘everything is possible.’

When Gimpel comes of age, he marries Elka who is a prostitute but forced to take the role of a husband for her. When the villagers take Gimpel to marry Elka, she deceptively goes to the well to take the role of the Biblical matriarchs: Zipporah, Rebecca, and Rachael who coincidentally met their husbands at the well. Additionally, Elka takes the role of washing her clothes to signify a responsible wife as other matriarchs did during their marriages. The villagers let Gimpel marry Elka, although they know she is a prostitute because he was so busy at his bakery. During their wedding, a woman performs the marriage ritual to deceive Gimpel that he was getting married, when in reality he was a scapegoat for Elka to have someone taking care of her when she fails to make money from her prostitution job and to act as a responsible woman.

The marriage between Gimpel and Elka was full of deception. For twenty years, Elka continued with her prostitution work, although Gimpel was working hard to provide for her and her children. She conceived six children through prostitution which she deceived Gimpel that they were his children so that he can work for them. When Gimpel suspected that the first child was born too soon, Elka deceived him that the child was just fine although he had been born very soon. It was only during her deathbed when Elka disclosed to Gimpel that the six children were not his.

Woe Gimpel!” she said. “It was ugly how I deceived you all these years. I want to go clean to my Maker, so I have to tell you that the children are not yours (Singer 1001).

She disclosed that she was not aware of the children’s fathers because they were diverse men she used to sleep with during her healthy days. She disclosed her deception to Gimpel so that she could be clean before her maker when she dies and died with a smile on her face signifying she had accomplished her mission in deceiving Gimpel.

Gimpel describes that he has been aware of the lies told to him throughout his life. Although the villagers told him stories to amuse themselves at his folly, he derives valuable lessons from their stories and mockery (Clasby 92). When he was a child, he described that he listened to the neighbors’ stories because they would become angry if he refused to listen. Therefore, he was listening to the stories out of mercy and a good heart and not what the neighbors believed. When he eventually decided to leave his old life where he was deceived, he said that there were no lies. Instead, what could not happen in actual lives could be dreamt at night. He decided to leave Elka’s children and go to an unknown place, where he became a prophet symbolizing Elijah who never died but was taken by a chariot of fire (Clasby 96). The lessons he had learned about life in his former self became useful as he started moving around giving people new insights about life, the devil, and telling stories to children.

The story, Gimpel the Fool is full of twists and turns, giving a description of Gimpel who spent a better part of his life as a wide fool. His first part of life was spent in planned misery were his neighbors frequently mocked him because he could listen to their lies. Additionally, he married Elka, who forgot to live her life so that she could deceive him, only to disclose at her deathbed that she had been a prostitute. When his wife died, Gimpel became a prophet and abandoned his former lifestyle as he had learned a lot about life through deceptions and mockery.

Works Cited

Clasby, Nancy T. “Gimpel’s Wisdom: I. B. Singer’s Vision of the “True World”.” Studies in American Jewish Literature (1981-), vol. 15, 1996, pp. 90-98, www.jstor.org/stable/41205858.

Singer, Isaac B. Gimpel the Fool. Noonday Press, 1957.

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