Gimpel the Fool
The Pain in a Simple Man’s Life
Primary motives are described as needs that a person must meet in order to survive. The most widely recognized of these motives are the needs for food, water, sleep, air, and regulation of body temperature. However, one motive that is commonly overlooked by society is that of pain avoidance. The undesired pain may be stemmed from either physical or emotional situations or a combination of the two. If one is not prepared to eliminate the source of the pain, then he/she may choose to ignore the painful situation rather than allow him/herself to become upset. The character Gimpel in Isaac Singer’s short story entitled “Gimpel the Fool” centers his entire livelihood on one of his more basic primary motives, the desire to avoid personal pain.
Gimpel is a man who is subjected to human cruelty everyday of his life dealt by the people who surround him. The cruelty is not in the form of physical abuse, yet just as harsh. The people of the only town Gimpel has ever known treat him as if he was a child. And in many ways, Gimpel is a child, for a child is a person who is learning the ways of the world. Gimpel mirrors a child with his naivete and goodness. The people of the town played jokes on him throughout his childhood and his life as an adult. According to Gimpel, “they stuffed my hand full of goat turds” instead “of the raisins they give when a woman’s lying in” (Singer 411). Whereas most people would see aggression as a normal reaction to this sort of trickery, Gimpel chooses to let every trick and every comment go without a word being said. His philosophy is to “Let it pass. So they take advantage of me” (411). This type of action demonstrates that Gimpel chooses to remain silent in order to avoid the pain of a confrontation. The idea in Gimpel’s mind is that he would rather tolerate people’s laughter rather than people’s hatred directed towards him. He comments saying that, “If I ever dared to say, ’Ah, you’re kidding!’ there was trouble. People got angry” (412). With comments such as this, Gimpel shows his need for complete happiness in his life, even if the happiness is at his personal expense.
Gimpel avoids pain not only from the townspeople, but from his wife as well. His wife, Elka, is a very promiscuous woman by nature and she chooses to be unfaithful to Gimpel. However again, Gimpel chooses to evade the truth of the matter to keep from being hurt. One way he [Gimpel] shows the reader how he avoids emotional pain is when he caught Elka in bed with another man. At first, he could not accept what his wife was doing to their marriage and his reputation. However as the pain of being alone increased each day, Gimpel decides to forget the entire incident and forces himself to lie about what he saw. Gimpel says to himself, “Hallucinations do happen. And if that’s so, I’m doing her [his wife] an injustice,” proving that he twists the truth into something that he can accept (416). ...