? Traveling Salesman? Essay, Research Paper
In the short stories ‘Gimpel the Fool” and “Death of a Traveling Salesman” we meet two characters that are vastly different and yet very similar. One is Gimpel, a na?ve Jew living in Russia that is the joke of the town, Frampol. The other is R.J. Bowman, a traveling salesman, who is judgmental and rather suspicious about most things. Bowman in the story is very sick and has had a car accident where he needs to retrieve his car from a ditch and receives help from a couple that lives in the area. The two are very similar in that they both change in personality, Bowman becomes less cynical and suspicious by being helped, while Gimpel becomes much less na?ve by being neglected and mistreated. Gimpel is portrayed by Singer as a role model, while is sharp contrast Welty depicts Bowman as the opposite, who realizes his inequities too late.
In the Gimpel story, Singer presents the main character in a fashion that the reader is very sympathetic for him. The stereo typical “nerd”, an outcast that is rejected society. Gimpel is troubled by the hecklers that antagonize him and often seeks help. “I went to the rabbi to get some advice. He said, “It is written, better to be a fool all your days than for one hour be evil.” (Singer 197) The rabbis are the only ones in the story who don’t deceive Gimpel.
Gimpel is forced into a marriage to with Elka a sinful woman, with a nasty mouth. “They were afraid to start anything with Elka. Her mouth would open as if it were on a hinge, and she had a fierce tongue.” (Singer 197)
Gimpel is quite aware of her notoriety. “I cried, “you’re wasting your time. I’ll never marry that whore.” Gimpel sees marriage as an escape in being the town’s joke so he weds Elka. He loves Elka though she neglects him and cheats on him his love stands. This is a possible allusion to the book of Hosea. His character is also evident in the fact that he loves children that he knows are not his. Though he is treated bad he is still thankful for his family, showing his humbleness. “…I am a man, the husband of a fine wife, the father of promising children.” (Singer 203) Gimpel lives twenty years of naivet? with his wife, producing six children, none of which are his. He pays no attention to rumors and believes his wife. “The rabbi recently said to me, “Belief in itself is beneficial. It is written that a good man lives by his faith.” (Singer 204) On his wife’s deathbed he finds out about his children and yet he still mourns her, showing his forgiving nature.
Gimpel realizes later in life that there are many deceptions in life and that in the end it’s all worth the tribulations. His love is unconditional because as an old man he longs for his wife that treated him so badly. “I weep and implore, “Let me be with you.” And she consoles me and tells me to be patient.” (Singer 207) His age brings about wisdom and as his death approaches he finds peace.
Bowman in “Death of a Traveling Salesman” is presented as somewhat of a nomad. “… who for fourteen years had traveled for a shoe company through Mississippi…” (Welty 209). Bowman seemed to distrust just about everything that he came in contact with such as: roads, illness, doctors, women, and hill country. He was lost but distrusted those there because he felt that they “…never knew the roads they lived on…” (Welty 210) Welty has a genuine disgust for Bowman, she gives him a sharp contrast with the other two characters in the story.
Symbolically, he is trying to reach the town Beulah (in the Old Testament the Land of Israel) before nightfall when he has an accident. His car totters over the edge of a shallow ravine allowing him just enough time to escape. Ominously, Welty writes, “this was indeed the road’s end.” (Welty 211)
Confused, lost and sick he walks until he comes upon “a shotgun house, two rooms and an open passage between.” (Welty 211) Inside the house live a man, Sonny, and a woman, who is never named.
They are very poor. He walks a considerable distance each day to work for a Mr. Redmond. They have no electricity. Dinner is prepared over an open fire in one of the rooms. They are solemn, independent people. Welty seems to like these people and creates them as moral role models.
What little they have, including their moonshine, they share with Bowman, who by now is hearing and feeling his heart behave in thoroughly abnormal ways. After dinner, he is invited to stay the night curled up like a dog on the floor in front of the hearth. Now, his revelations come with force. He realizes that this couple has everything that matters in the world. They have each other; she is pregnant and they have a home.
Bowman, on the other hand is lonely, isolated and has no place to call home after years of hotel stays while traveling around selling shoes. Even in the state between sleep and wakefulness he hears himself reciting, “There will be special reduced prices on all footwear during the month of January.” (Welty 219)
Welty doesn’t like Bowman. To her, he is a rudderless, a model of nothing.
In the later hours of the night, he knows he must leave. On the way out, “On some impulse he put all the money from his billfold under the fluted glass base . . . Ashamed, shrugging a little, and then shivering, he took his bags and went out.” (Welty 219) The title tells us what happens next.
The two stories depict what types of priorities are important. In Gimbel’s case a faith in God is prevalent with his desire to love his family. Also in Welty’s work the same priorities are put forth in the form of the humble couple. Bowman sees this characteristic in them and realizes how lonely he is and dies before he can do anything about it. Gimbel and Bowmen are complete opposites yet they as they near the end of their lives they come to realize similar trains of thought. One character symbolizes the prosperity of faith and the other the prosperity of the world.