Second World War Essay
Second World War
Philip Roth was born in Newark, New Jersey, a Jewish neighborhood. His life experience in Newark and his college days in Rutgers and Bucknell serves as substance for his novels. There are traces of his upbringing and college days in many of his novels. His writing gave new life to American Jewish literature. You can often find references to Zionism in his writing, and Operation Shylock (Roth 1993) is no exception.
In this, Roth even creates a character by name Philip Roth, who impersonates the real Philip Roth and goes to Israel and causes uproar there by advocating Diaspora, the opposite of Zionism, asking the Israelis to return to Eastern Europe. The Portroy’s Complaint, which also brought him notorious reputation, was regarded as a best seller. Although many people felt that the novel depicted the Jewish life in a humiliating and degradative manner, there were others who thought the novel to be neutral leading nowhere. Philip Roth explores the uncomfortable truth with daring imagination.
His emphasis is on the characters and their development rather than on religion and religious faiths, though the element of Zionism is evident. What we can say about such authors is that they do not represent or portray anything in particular. They are not prejudiced in their writing. Their religion does not limit their writing. They just wrote about the contemporary life, and sometimes the characters represented the authors themselves and focused on their experience. Critics feel Philip Roth’s writing had much in common in with that of Saul Bellow and Norman Mailer.
Chaim Potok, the eldest son of Polish immigrants, was born in a conventional Jewish family and grew up in New York. He had a secular education, and was a rabbi and scholar. Potok is at his best when exploring the religious Judaism and the expansive secular world. This can be attributed to the deep-seated anxiety and tension of his own life. Chaim Potok’s novel, The Chosen (Potok 1967), like many other American Jewish novels, revolves around the tension between the tradition and modern American life.
Potok beautifully portrays the attempts and efforts of the different Jewish communities to set a balance between their religious interests and the modern American life. This novel examines the Jewish faith from within this setting. The chosen is set at significant time in world history dealing with the American Jewish reaction to Holocaust and the Zionist movement for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. Of the two central characters in this novel, one is a Hasid and the other is a traditional Orthodox Jew.
Where the Hasidism are known for their spiritual interpretation of Judaism and their loyal devotion to their leaders, conventional orthodoxy emphasizes on a rational approach to Judaism. Chaim Potok’s The Chosen has as its background the friendship of two adolescent Jewish boys growing up in Brooklyn. Reuven Malter, son of David Malter, is a traditional Orthodox Jew, and Danny Saunders, son of Reb Saunders, is a Hasid. This fundamental difference plays a significant role as the plot develops.
The novel is divided into three books, each having its own setting. The first book is set as happening at the end of the Second World War. David accidentally hits Reuven in his eye while playing softball almost blinding him, and Reuven is hospitalized. David’s frequent visits to the hospital lead to the blossoming of a fierce friendship between the two. Danny’s father wants his son to inherit his position as the head of the Hasidic community, but Danny is set on studying psychoanalysis.
Reuven is a welcome guest in David’s house until the clashes over a Jewish state become more powerful, and apprehension and stress grow among the student factions. When David Malter, Reuven’s father, renders a pro-Zionist speech, Reb Saunders is infuriated and forbids his son from talking to Reuven. A clear picture of the collision of different values and cultures is seen. This is more prominent in the different ways Reb Saunders and David Malter react to the Holocaust.
The massacre of six million Jews evokes different reactions from these two people. Reb Saunders’ view is that it is the will of God, and that all that man can do is to wait for God to bring the Messiah. But David Malter has a totally different view, and he strongly believes that Jewish culture could be preserved even in America and a separate homeland should be created for the Jews in Palestine. Reb Saunders sticks strongly to his anti-Zionist views. Potok, in his own complex style, portrays the clash of opinions on Zionism.