The counsel of the wise fool



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The archetypal Wise Fool has enjoyed increased popularity in the latter half of the twentieth century. Four of the authors who have given fictional life to the Wise Fool in recent times are Ken Kesey, Thomas Berger, Saul Bellow, and J. D. Salinger. Each has embodied the archetype in his own fashion to make a unique artistic statement. The works have in common the over-mastering image of the Fool as a guide assisting others in breaking down their walls of limitation and in achieving a larger Selfhood. In each of the novels the ambiguity of the characterization takes the form of introducing the character initially as a natural fool and of revealing in progressive steps the reality of his wisdom in contrast to the appearance of his foolishness. Ultimately the Fool is discovered to be the Sage.