The Chosen by Chaim Potok tells a story about an unlikely friendship between an Orthodox Jew, Reuven Malter, and Hasidic Jew, Danny Saunders. The story is narrated from Reuven’s point of view. It begins with a baseball game in which Danny and Reuven are playing on opposing teams. During the game Danny hits a line drive to Reuven, and Reuven’s eye is injured. After this, Danny and Reuven enter into each other’s different worlds and a deep friendship evolves. Their friendship essentially changes both of their lives.
The author uses strong character development and symbolism to show how a friendship between two very different people can change their lives. Reuven and Danny are different in many ways. To both of them, religion is a way of life, but their approach to their faith is not the same. Reuven is devout and prays with genuine compassion, evidently believing his prayers are heard. He and his father study the Talmud in a slow, methodical way, using scientific criticism. Reuven desires to become a rabbi. Danny’s approach to his faith is more mechanical.
He studies the Talmud because he has to. He and his father’s method of studying the Talmud is by making points and arguing. Danny’s future position as a ‘tzaddik’ is a given. While Reuven is more personable and goes out with friends, Danny seems more withdrawn and holds himself apart from people. Each boy develops as a result of their friendship and ultimately both of their lives change. At the beginning of the story, Reuven dismisses Hasidism and those who practice it. He thinks Hasids are ignorant and self-righteous fanatics. He is critical of what he doesn’t understand.
As their unlikely friendship begins and Reuven is thrust into Danny’s world, his perception broadens. His eyes are opened and he realizes that things are not always the way they seem. “I don’t understand it…Weeks and weeks go by, one Shabbat follows another, and I’m the same, nothing has changed, and suddenly one day something happens, and everything looks different. ” (Potok pg. 114) Although he doesn’t change his practice of religion, he becomes more accepting of people who are different from him. As part of his development as a person, Reuven learns what it means to be a true friend.
Danny’s life in the beginning of the book is completely different from Reuven’s. His life has already been planned out for him. He has no friends and feels trapped by the expectations of his father. From his friendship with Reuven, his world begins to open up. Danny has begun to read books that contradict what he has been taught and he starts to think of ideas beyond his religion. Danny can confide in Reuven and talk to him about the future, his desires, and his thoughts. “I want to be able to breathe, to think what I want to think, to say the things the I want to say.
I’m trapped now… My mind cries to get out of it, but I can’t. Not now. One day I will, though. I’ll want you around on that day, friend. ”(Potok pg. 202) Ultimately, because of his friendship with Reuven, Danny has the courage to go against his father’s wishes for his life and become what he wants to be. Danny and Reuven’s relationship show both of them that they can move beyond their present way of thinking. The author uses symbolism to show how the friendship between Danny and Reuven changed their lives. A dominant symbol in The Chosen is eyes.
The eyes symbolize seeing. It emphasizes perception of oneself and the world in a literal as well as a symbolic sense. The symbolism begins when Danny injures Reuven’s eye in a baseball game. Reuven’s eye is literally injured and the renewal of his eyesight represents a whole new world opening up for him. When Reuven comes home from the hospital after befriending Danny, his house seems unusual, and he views things in a different way. “I have never really paid any attention to it before. Now it seemed suddenly luminous and alive. (Potok pg. 99) Danny’s eyes are symbolic as well. Through a large portion of the book, Danny is constantly blinking his eyes, and his eyes are described as tired or sad. This represents his inner turmoil. Once things are resolved and Danny is free to make his way in the world, his eyes are different. “But there was a light in his eyes that was almost blinding. ” (Potok pg. 283) The symbolism of the eyes plays a large role in The Chosen and helps demonstrate the change that occurs in the boys’ lives from their friendship.
Chaim Potok’s The Chosen describes a friendship between two very different boys. The author uses strong character development and symbolism to show how a friendship between two dissimilar people can alter their lives. By describing the characters’ development throughout the story, the author shows how Reuven and Danny are impacted by their friendship. The symbol of the eye illustrates how the boys’ perception was expanded and their world was changed. As a result of these techniques, the author creates a story of a life changing friendship.