The Chosen by Chaim Potok takes place in Brooklyn, New York during the 1940’s and the end of the Second World War. The story centers on the narrator, Reuven Malter and his friend, Danny Saunders. Reuven and Danny unexpectedly become friends after Danny injures Reuven during a neighborhood baseball game and Danny fully recovers. Throughout the story, Reuven learns of Danny’s home situation and desires. From there, the friendship experiences numerous challenges and successes.
The Differences between Reuven and Danny’s Home Environments
Reuven comes from a modern but very conservative Jewish home while Danny comes from a very strict Hasidic Orthodox Jewish home. Reuven has the desire to be a Rabbi while Danny secretly wants to work in the field of psychology. Unfortunately for Danny, he is expected to inherit his father’s position as a respected tzadik (which literally means “righteous”) Rabbi. Reuven further discovers that Danny is being raised “in silence”. Reuven, on the contrary, is very popular at his school, very active in the local community, and has the mind of a mathematician. His father is a Talmudic teacher who is in favor of the establishment of the State of Israel. Danny’s father, on the contrary, opposes the establishment with a passion as he believes that it goes against God’s Will and doesn’t fit the prophecy of the Messiah’s coming.
The Message of the Novel
The main message of The Chosen is one in pursuit of one’s own passions instead of simply bending into expectations. It also sends the message of maintaining the strength of a friendship even in forced separation and the strength of healthy father-son bonds. Even during their forced two-year separation by Reb Saunders (Danny’s father), Reuven and Danny never truly drift from eachother. It also somewhat reflects on the challenges that many immigrants and their children face after arriving in the U.S. Danny’s father is from Russia originally and had fled with his entire congregation to the U.S. just before the October Revolution (the first attempt to overthrow the Czar). What the majority of the U.S. stands for is against Reb Saunders’ beliefs and as a result, he completely isolates himself and his family from the rest of the world.