Chosen By Potok Essay

Malter’s Development in The Chosen One of the most emotional scenes from Chaim
Potok’s The Chosen is when Reuven goes with Danny Saunders to talk to his
father. Danny has a great mind and wants to use it to study psychology, not
become a Hasidic tzaddik. The two go into Reb Saunders’ study to explain to him
what is going to happen, and before Danny can bring it up, his father does. Reb
Saunders explains to the two friends that he already known that Reuven is going
to go for his smicha and Danny, who is in line to become the next tzaddik of his
people, will not. This relates to the motif of “Individuality” and the
theme of “Danny’s choice of going with the family dynasty or to what his
heart leads him.” The most developing character from the novel is Reuven
Malter. One of the ways that he developes in the novel is in hus understanding
of friendship. His friendship with Dfanny Saunders is encouraged by his father,
but he is wary of it at first because Danny is a Hasid, and regards regular
Orthodox Jews as apikorsim because of the teachings of his father. Reuven goes
from not being able to have a civil conversation with Danny to becoming his best
friend with whom he spens all of his free time, studies Talmud and goes to
college. Reuven truly grows because he leans, as his father says, what it is to
be a friend. Another way that Reuven grows is that he learns to appreciate
different people and 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 of this novel) keeps telling him that it’s okay to disagree with ideas,
but hating a person because of them is intolerable. Through his friendship with
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 beliefs that are as valuable as his. He
learns why they think, act, speak, and dress the way that they do and comes to
grips with the fact that he doesn’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 his appreciation of life, or cha’im in Hebrew. He almost loses his vision,
his father nearly works himself to death, six million Jews are butchered in
Europe, and Danny’s brother’s poor health threatens Danny’s choice to not become
a tzaddik. When his eye is out of order he can’t read, and indeed does remark
that it’s very difficult to live without reading, especially with a voracious
appetite for learning such as his. His father almost dies twice and he talks
about how difficult it is to live all alone in silence (which is a metaphor
alluding to Danny’s everyday life) for the month while his father is in the
hospital. He sees Reb Saunders and his father feeling the suffering of the six
million dead, Saunders by crying and being silent, David Malter by working for
the creation of a Jewish state and being a leader in the movement, in addition
to teaching at a yeshiva and adult education classes. And of course Danny is
very worried by his brother’s illness (hemophillia?) because if he dies it will
be even harded for Danny to turn down his tzaddikship. By the end of the book,
Reuven Malter is a very changed character. Potok is an expert with using
allusion and metaphor. Very subtly throughout the book he uses this for the
purposes of renforcing his points, foreshadowing, and to make the book a better
read when you’ve read it previously and know the outcome. One example of this,
one that I missed the first time I read the book in 7th grade is the paragraph
at the end of chapter nine where Reuven is sitting on his porch and sees a fly
trapped in a spider’s web with the arachnid builder approaching. He blows on the
fly, first softly, and then more harshly, and the fly is free and safe from the
danger of the spider. This is a metaphor to Danny being trapped in the
“filmy, almost invisible strands of the web” (165) that is a metaphor
for the Hasidic clan that has Danny somewhat captured and expected to become a

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