The Chosen


The Chosen

 
The Chosen, a fiction novel written in 1967 by Chaim Potok, is about two young Jewish boys and their friendship. It takes us along with them on their journey from adolescence to adulthood. They face many conflicts, and through those trials the author makes his readers think more deeply into life?s true meanings.
The novel was set in New York during the Second World War. Since the main characters are Jews, this period of time is very significant. Not only were the Jews persecuted during WWII, but New York was also close to a military base, which made it a prime target for bombing. Even the setting has an underlying sense of tension.
One of the protagonists in The Chosen is Reuven Malter. Reuven is an orthodox Jewish boy. He is a very smart and diligent student. His father, David Malter raises Reuven alone in Brooklyn, New York as his mother has already passed away. Reuven has glasses, brown hair and eyes, and dresses in the typical orthodox manner. A plain boy, he has a bright mind and a very caring soul.
The other protagonist in the novel is Danny Saunders. Danny is the son of a very devoted Hasidic Jewish tzaddik. However, Danny is not a very enthusiastic Hasid. He has earlocks, grows a beard, and wears the traditional Hasidic outfit, but he doesn't have the reverence for it that he should. Danny is a genius. His religion forbids him to read literature from the outside world, so he struggles with his thirst for knowledge and the restraints that have been put on him by both his father and his religion. He lives with his father, mother, older sister, and younger brother in Brooklyn as well.
The first antagonist is Danny. He and Reuven had many difficulties. They resolve their problems in the course of the book, but at the beginning they hate each other. Their religious views are also very opposite. Once they overcome their differences, they become best friends.
Reb Saunders is the second antagonist. A Hasidic tzaddik, he led his people into freedom in America. Reb has strange ideas on raising Danny. He believes that silence will teach Danny compassion and give him an understanding for pain. He does not talk to his son about anything but the Talmud. Loving and respecting each other immensely, Reb and Danny just never get a chance to express their feelings with one another. Reb holds Danny back and doesn't allow him to reach his full potential, because he feels it is best for Danny.
The most important supporting character is David Malter, Reuven's father. Mr. Malter is a journalist. Weak and often ill, he is a Zionist proud of his religion and heritage. He provides Danny with a worldview giving him the opportunity to expand his mind and broaden his viewpoint. He also gives Reuven self-confidence and the ability to make his own decisions. He supports Reuven, helps him through hard times, and shares insights with him. "A man must fill his life with meaning, meaning is not automatically given to life. It is hard work to fill one?s life with meaning," Mr. Malter once said to his son.
Reuven acts as a buffer between Reb and Danny Saunders. Since Reb feels he can't talk to Danny in order to raise him properly, he talks to Reuven about Danny. They talk to each other through Reuven. Reuven is also a very supportive and encouraging friend to Danny. He gives him advice and is willing to listen to Danny's problems.
In this predominately Jewish setting, Billy Merrit and Tony Savo give Reuven a window into the outside world. Reuven learned about Gentile culture when with them. They serve an important role in the novel by teaching Reuven that suffering is universal and life isn't always fair. It really awakened him to new ideas.
Each of the main characters have obvious flaws. Danny has a good mind, but no soul. He is brilliant, but he unable to relate to people. Reuven is very bright and relates well to people, but he finds forgiveness difficult in practice. When other characters wrong him, Reuven begrudges them and struggles with mercy. Reb Saunders only knew what was around him and what he had been taught. His worldview didn?t search for conclusions about matters bigger than his own circle.
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