One of the most emotional scenes from Chaim Potok’s The Chosen is whenReuven goes with Danny Saunders to talk to his father.
Danny has a greatmind and wants to use it to study psychology, not become a Hasidictzaddik. The two go into Reb Saunders’ study to explain to him what isgoing to happen, and before Danny can bring it up, his father does. RebSaunders explains to the two friends that he already known that Reuvenis going to go for his smicha and Danny, who is in line to become thenext tzaddik of his people, will not. This relates to the motif of”Individuality” and the theme of “Danny’s choice of going with thefamily dynasty or to what his heart leads him.”The most developing character from the novel is Reuven Malter. One ofthe ways that he developes in the novel is in hus understanding offriendship. His friendship with Dfanny Saunders is encouraged by hisfather, but he is wary of it at first because Danny is a Hasid, andregards regular Orthodox Jews as apikorsim because of the teachings ofhis father.
Reuven goes from not being able to have a civil conversationwith Danny to becoming his best friend with whom he spens all of hisfree time, studies Talmud and goes to college. Reuven truly growsbecause he leans, as his father says, what it is to be a friend. Anotherway that Reuven grows is that he learns to appreciate different peopleand 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 ofthis novel) keeps telling him that it’s okay to disagree with ideas, buthating a person because of them is intolerable.
Through his friendshipwith 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 beliefsthat are as valuable as his. He learns why they think, act, speak, anddress the way that they do and comes to grips with the fact that hedoesn’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 hisappreciation of life, or cha’im in Hebrew. He almost loses his vision,his father nearly works himself to death, six million Jews arebutchered in Europe, and Danny’s brother’s poor health threatens Danny’schoice to not become a tzaddik.
When his eye is out of order he can’tread, and indeed does remark that it’s very difficult to live withoutreading, especially with a voracious appetite for learning such as his.His father almost dies twice and he talks about how difficult it is tolive all alone in silence (which is a metaphor alluding to Danny’severyday life) for the month while his father is in the hospital. Hesees Reb Saunders and his father feeling the suffering of the sixmillion dead, Saunders by crying and being silent, David Malter byworking for the creation of a Jewish state and being a leader in themovement, in addition to teaching at a yeshiva and adult educationclasses. And of course Danny is very worried by his brother’s illness(hemophillia?) because if he dies it will be even harded for Danny toturn down his tzaddikship.
By the end of the book, Reuven Malter is avery changed character.Potok is an expert with using allusion and metaphor. Very subtlythroughout the book he uses this for the purposes of renforcing hispoints, foreshadowing, and to make the book a better read when you’veread it previously and know the outcome. One example of this, one that Imissed the first time I read the book in 7th grade is the paragraph atthe end of chapter nine where Reuven is sitting on his porch and sees afly trapped in a spider’s web with the arachnid builder approaching. Heblows on the fly, first softly, and then more harshly, and the fly isfree and safe from the danger of the spider. This is a metaphor to Dannybeing trapped in the “filmy, almost invisible strands of the web” (165)that is a metaphor for the Hasidic clan that has Danny somewhat capturedand expected to become a tzaddik.