Chaim Potok’s The Chosen is the story of a lasting friendship that blossoms between two Jewish boys, Danny Saunders and Reuven Malter, during and after World War II. On a deeper level, much of the plot focuses on the character of their fathers–Reb Saunders and David Malter–whose beliefs and ideals are rooted in two separate worlds. Reb Saunders is a zealous Hasidic rabbi who wants to impart his knowledge of his religion upon Danny and expects his son to follow in his footsteps. David is a professor and single father who comes from a liberal Jewish background. As the friendship between Reuven and Danny grows, both fathers try to reconcile their views with their sons and with their own understanding of the Jewish faith.
Unlike Reb Saunders, who never exchanges a single word to his son except over their discussion of the Talmud, David encourages Reuven to be outward in expressing his feelings and emotions–thus leading to a much closer, stronger, and more intimate relationship between them. Reb Saunders deliberately raises a barrier of silence between himself and his son because he believes that with a brilliant mind such as Danny’s comes a cold "ugliness" that is only shattered "… by suffering one’s own pain, by turning inside oneself, by finding one’s own soul" (Chapter 18, page 278). As a result of Reb Saunders’ treatment, Danny suffers throughout the story, mainly due to his inability to tell his father essential information about his future–like his aspirations of becoming a psychologist–or any other aspects of his life. Even simple conversation proves to be an almost insurmountable endeavor for Danny. For instance, he concedes to Reuven that talking to his father about or...
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...s perception but rather explains the reason behind the tzaddik’s fanaticism. On the other hand, Reb Saunders is intolerant of many ideas, especially ones that contradict his own religious beliefs. For instance, at Reuven’s mention of Zionism, he erupts into a furious rage; David Malter’s speech at Madison Square Garden results in a nearly two-year long ban on Reuven’s and Danny’s friendship.
From the time they first meet in a softball game to the moment they bid their final farewells, Danny and Reuven develop tremendously. Their fathers play a crucial role in this development. Still, no matter how David Malter and Reb Saunders raise them, their sons will always accept and forever cherish the precious gifts of love, guidance, and care that are continually given to them.
Potok, Chaim. The Chosen. Ballantine Books. New York City, New York. 1967.
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