Apr 27, Jigar Brahmbhatt rated it really liked it The Little Shoemakers, with its wholesomeness, remains one of the finest Singer stories I have read. It has the ease and majesty of a classic novel, and it reaches, not for an immediate effect in its closure, but for an after-effect that soothes the heart. You feel content after reading it, and you want to revel in that feeling. It is very easy to use the word "feel good", but it will limit the effect to some storytelling gimmick or suggest some overt sentimentality that goes for titillating the The Little Shoemakers, with its wholesomeness, remains one of the finest Singer stories I have read.

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Gimpel is a kind and loving man who seems to be punished for his generosity. His willingness to believe the people around him—and to suffer as a result of believing them—is a virtue and remains one after everything else falls away. The rabbi assists the man with the following calculation: Since the man has lived with his wife three months, and she has lived with him for three months, and together they have lived three months, then three plus three plus three equals nine months.

Siegel writes that in the Yiddish version of the story, this ambiguity is broadcast from the beginning. This means that not only his creator but he himself is capable of irony about the sacrifices required by faith. Singer creates a deeply religious story about a man of simple faith who, because of his faith, has a godlike capacity for love, the ideal Jew, if you will.

Since both views are based on the same evidence, Hadda wonders if perhaps another way of looking at the material might be more to the point. If, Gimpel might say, you disbelieve the nations who threaten to remove the Jewish people from the face of the earth, you will disbelieve anything. He undergoes a transformation, giving away his worldly possessions and leaving Frampol.

The rabbis reassure Gimpel that to believe is the most important thing. The longer he lives the more he learns to believe, until even the people around him can see that he is truly wise.

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Gimpel the Fool Summary

See The Spirit of Evil Elka Elka, who is known as the town prostitute, marries Gimpel when he agrees to get the town to take up a collection to raise a dowry for her. She is five months pregnant by another man when they are married, but she tells Gimpel the child is his and, when it arrives four months after their marriage, that it is simply premature. On her deathbed she admits her infidelities to her husband and asks him to forgive her. The Spirit of Evil The devil appears to Gimpel the baker and tells him to urinate in the bread intended for the village in order to get revenge for the many injustices the villagers have forced him to endure over the years. Gimpel Gimpel is a baker in the village of Frampol. Transcripts are available through the National Yiddish Book Society.


Gimpel the Fool

Singer subtly subverts the customary associations of "fool" from the very beginning of his story. He accepts them because in the long run it is conducive to peace and quiet—otherwise they shout at him and disturb the tenor of his life—and as long as he resists, the episode and its unpleasantness last longer. But the situation is ironical, too: since he does not really believe what the villagers say and is not taken in, it is he who is fooling them—not the other way round as they think. In fact, Gimpel serves to expose the inanity of the villagers: the folly of spending so much time in cooking up, elaborating, and collaborating on such silly stories, all to trick one man they consider an idiot, is evident. Singer thus suggests that Gimpel is not the fool he seems to be. His wisdom lies in his forethought and his realistic acceptance of the world as it is.


Gimpel the Fool by Isaac Bashevis Singer, 1957



Gimpel the Fool


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