The Chosen - Malter's Development


The Chosen - Malter's Development

One of the most emotional scenes from Chaim Potok's The Chosen
is when Reuven goes with Danny Saunders to talk to his father. Danny
has a great mind and wants to use it to study psychology, not become a
Hasidic tzaddik. The two go into Reb Saunders' study to explain to him
what is going to happen, and before Danny can bring it up, his father
does. Reb Saunders explains to the two friends that he already known
that Reuven is going to go for his smicha and Danny, who is in line to
become the next tzaddik of his people, will not. This relates to the
motif of "Individuality" and the theme of "Danny's choice of going
with the family dynasty or to what his heart leads him."

The most developing character from the novel is Reuven Malter.
One of the ways that he developes in the novel is in hus understanding
of friendship. His friendship with Dfanny Saunders is encouraged by
his father, but he is wary of it at first because Danny is a Hasid,
and regards regular Orthodox Jews as apikorsim because of the
teachings of his father. Reuven goes from not being able to have a
civil conversation with Danny to becoming his best friend with whom he
spens all of his free time, studies Talmud and goes to college. Reuven
truly grows because he leans, as his father says, what it is to be a
friend. Another way that Reuven grows is that he learns to appreciate
different people and their ideas. He starts out hating Hasidim because
it's the "pious" thing to do, even though his father (who I see as the
Atticus Finch of this novel) keeps telling him that it's okay to
disagree with ideas, but hating a person because of them is
intolerable. Through his friendship with Danny, studies with Reb
Saunders, brief crush on Danny's sister (who was never given a name),
and time spent in the Hasidic community, he learns that Hasids are
people too with their own ideas and beliefs that are as valuable as
his. He learns why they think, act, speak, and dress the way that they
do and comes to grips with the fact that he doesn't have a monopoly on
virtue. A third way in which Reuven grows, though the book doesn't
really talk about it a great deal, is in his appreciation of life, or
cha'im in Hebrew. He almost loses his vision, his father nearly works
himself to death, six million Jews are butchered in Europe, and
Danny's brother's poor health threatens Danny's choice to not become a
tzaddik. When his eye is out of order he can't read, and indeed does
remark that it's very difficult to live without reading, especially
with a voracious appetite for learning such as his. His father almost
dies twice and he talks about how difficult it is to live all alone in
silence (which is a metaphor alluding to Danny's everyday life) for
the month while his father is in the hospital. He sees Reb Saunders
and his father feeling the suffering of the six million dead, Saunders
by crying and being silent, David Malter by working for the creation
of a Jewish state and being a leader in the movement, in addition to
teaching at a yeshiva and adult education classes. And of course Danny
is very worried by his brother's illness (hemophillia?) because if he
dies it will be even harded for Danny to turn down his tzaddikship. By
the end of the book, Reuven Malter is a very changed character.

Potok is an expert with using allusion and metaphor. Very
subtly throughout the book he uses this for the purposes of renforcing
his points, foreshadowing, and to make the book a better read when
you've read it previously and know the outcome. One example of this,
one that I missed the first time I read the book in 7th grade is the
paragraph at the end of chapter nine where Reuven is sitting on his
porch and sees a fly trapped in a spider's web with the arachnid
builder approaching. He blows on the fly, first softly, and then more
harshly, and the fly is free and safe from the danger of the spider.