The Chosen

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The Chosen is a novel, generally accepted to be classic literature, by Chaim Potok. It was published in 1967 and made into a movie in 1981.

The protagonist in this story is a secular Jew named Reuven Malter, who is the son of a Zionist article writer. Reuven is witty, generous, and kind. However, he is bold, determined, and unwilling to be stepped on. He is also a good friend.

In The Chosen, Reuven and Danny meet one day at a very competitive baseball game. The two have both been brought up in Judaism, but one as a secular Jew, and the other as a Hasidic Jew. Reuven, is struck maliciously by Danny’s line drive, and Reuven goes to the hospital. After having a mild epiphany in the hospital, Danny and Reuven become friends. They spend countless days in religious and intellectual pursuits, and Reuven becomes startled by Danny’s father, a rabbi, and his strange parenting methods of silence. Danny’s father forbids him to see Reuven for a long period, but eventually the two get back together, and Danny resigns his position to be inherited as rabbi, and rebelliously becomes a psychologist.

Potok writes with a style rich in literary techniques, and devices. He uses several examples of parallel structure, and antithesis, both syntactically, and throughout the story. For example, throughout the story Reuven’s family listens and is involved in World War II and its aftermath. This storyline runs along the development of Reuven and Danny’s friendship, the events of World War II vaguely mimicking the events with Danny and Reuven. Potok stirs in light humor, the Jewish children using the phrase “Jesus Christ” when frustrated, and comparing the baseball game to a “holy war”. The credibility of the novel is strengthened by Potok’s great knowledge, and incorporation of Jewish subjects into the story. Potok adds a mysterious element with his constant, subtle foreshadowing, like mentioning how Reuven did not want to take off his glasses, which later cut his eye, and his hatred strictly of Danny, followed by their strong friendship. But what completes the novel is Potok’s use of a variety of symbols and archetypes. For example, upon entering the hospital, Reuven meets an ignorant, blind child, whose surgery later fails. This runs parallel to Reuven by comparing blindness to ignorance, showing Danny that to succeed, he must always be aware of his surroundings, and use his intelligence and other gifts, which are symbolized by the healing of his eyes. Hiss style is similar to that of Dysterskosky, as they both include characters grappling with intense internal conflict and inner moral debates.

The tone of this story overall is mystery. The complexities of the story, and bizarre symbolism and events leave the reader wondering, even at the end where the characters part suddenly. An example of this is the constant mention and inquiry of Danny’s father’s parenting technique, in which he raises his son without speaking to him. The radical and sudden tendencies of Danny’s father also make the reader question. Throughout the entire story, core elements are shrouded in a mysterious fog.

The theme of this story was, “Your family is not always the ones most closely related to you.” This is shown by Danny’s lack of love for his brother, and the harsh methods thrown upon him by his father. In comparison, he loves and values the Malters immensely. Also, despite the two years they were not allowed to speak with each other, and Danny’s departure to a foreign school, the two remained friends. Other lesser themes are of silence and Zionism.