The Chosen Essay

The Chosen Essay

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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 do...


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...alizes that he can’t expect to keep such a genius in the cage. Reb finds out about Danny’s plans for the future, and although they contradict the way he would have wanted Danny to continue with his life, he agrees to let Danny decide for himself. Satisfied as a father, Reb says, “…I had to make certain his soul would be the soul of a tzaddik no matter what he did with his life.” Once Reb has given his son freedom, Danny remains faithful to his religion and, although he is not as devout, goes out into the world.

Throughout this novel, there is an underlying force of prejudice. The two different Jewish sects are prejudiced against one another. Alongside, WWII also has a lot of prejudices locked up in it. The Zionist and anti-Zionist movements were prejudiced toward each other and many of these examples are found in the novel.

Reuven Malter narrated The Chosen. This gives it a youthful perspective. It is very descriptive. Potok used many detailed vocabulary words to communicate his point. A lot of figurative language helps develop analogies and insights, as well. The Chosen is a very insightful novel about the Jewish culture and the trials that come with growing up.

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