The Chosen

by: Chaim Potok

Reuven Malter

Potok chooses Reuven to narrate The Chosen, even though the novel’s central conflict is Danny’s desire to break away from his obligation to inherit his father’s position as Tzaddik. Reuven works well as a narrator because we share his position as a curious outsider looking in on the unfamiliar, secret world of Hasidism. Reuven is a more accessible character than Danny; it is more difficult for us to relate to Danny’s unique genius and his Hasidic lifestyle. At the same time, these aspects of Danny’s character make him very interesting, and as narrator, Reuven is able to instill in us the same fascination with Danny that Reuven himself feels.

Reuven’s presence also reminds us that The Chosen is not just the story of Danny’s struggle between his obligation to the traditions of his family and the possibilities of a modern, secular society. Reuven also deals with conflicts and change. Through his interactions with Danny and Reb Saunders, his perspective on the world is broadened. He deepens his empathy for others and enlarges his intellect. Both Reuven and Danny are protagonists, and each is central to developing the novel’s themes and driving its plot. Potok’s focus on two protagonists instead of one underscores the importance of friendships and relationships to the novel, and the related ideas of reciprocity, choice, and compromise.