narrator of the novel and one of its two protagonists. Reuven is
a traditional Orthodox Jew who lives with his father in a brownstone
apartment in Brooklyn. He observes the Ten Commandments and attends
a Jewish parochial school, or yeshiva, where his father teaches.
He is an intelligent, conscientious, and popular boy, talented in
softball, math, and Talmud study. The Chosen
primarily the story of his long and sometimes complicated friendship
with Danny Saunders. As Reuven and Danny struggle toward adulthood
during the tumultuous end of World War II and creation of the modern
State of Israel, Reuven examines his understanding of religion,
culture, and spirituality.
in-depth analysis of Reuven Malter.
The novel’s other protagonist. Danny is the son of Reb
Saunders and heir apparent to his father’s Hasidic dynasty. He is
a brilliant scholar with a photographic memory and a deep interest
in Freud and psychoanalysis. Danny attends his father’s Hasidic yeshiva,
but he reads secular books in secret at the public library. He is
torn between his duty to his father and his own ideas about how
to live his life. As the heir to a Hasidic dynasty, he feels an
obligation to remain within his cloistered, extremely conservative
Jewish community. At the same time, he longs to study intellectual
ideas in the outside world.
in-depth analysis of Danny Saunders.
traditional Orthodox Jew and a teacher, scholar, writer, and humanitarian.
Mr. Malter raises his son, Reuven, to be an ethical, caring, and
intellectually honest young man, well-versed in both Judaic and secular
studies. Mr. Malter is notorious within the Hasidic community for
his controversial Biblical scholarship and his outspoken support
of Zionism. His health deteriorates as the novel progresses due
to his tireless hard work on behalf of the Zionist movement. He
wants Reuven to become a mathematics professor, but once he realizes
his son is dedicated to becoming a rabbi, he fully supports Reuven’s
decision. Throughout the book, he encourages the intellectual curiosity
of both his son and Danny Saunders.
in-depth analysis of David Malter.
Reb Isaac Saunders
The pious and zealous patriarch of a Hasidic dynasty.
Reb Saunders’s home is also the center of study and prayer for his
followers, who join him at his table every Shabbat. Reb Saunders
is a wise, learned, and deeply religious sage who raises Danny in
silence, speaking to him only when discussing the Talmud. At the
end of the novel, he reveals that he raised Danny in silence in
order to teach him to have compassion for others. Reb Saunders is
fervently committed to his strict and limited Hasidic worldview,
and he imposes his views on everyone around him.
sickly younger brother. Unlike Danny, Levi is not raised in silence.
Danny hopes that Levi will take over his father’s dynasty so that
Danny can study psychology instead.
gym instructor at Reuven’s yeshiva. Mr. Galanter leads Reuven’s
high school softball team and brings Reuven to the hospital after
his eye injury. He speaks to his team using military metaphors,
and the boys wonder why he is not fighting in World War II. Mr.
Galanter later tells Reuven that he “couldn’t make it as a soldier,”
but he never elaborates.
Orthodox rabbi and Danny and Reuven’s teacher in the highest-level
Talmud class at the Hirsch Seminary and College. To Reuven’s surprise,
Rav Gershenson is familiar with David Malter’s Talmudic criticism,
and he considers Mr. Malter a great scholar.
Professor Nathan Appleman
The chairman of the psychology department at the
Hirsch Seminary and College. Professor Appleman’s class frustrates
Danny at first, because Appleman critiques Freud’s methods and focuses
on experimental psychology. However, after Danny and Appleman discuss
their differences, Danny comes to respect Appleman and his methodology.
loving Russian housekeeper who cooks and cleans the Malters’ apartment.
patient who occupies one of the hospital beds next to Reuven. Tony
Savo’s speech, which he peppers with boxing terms, reflects his
former career as a professional prizefighter. Reuven and Mr. Savo
become friends, and he warns Reuven to beware of religious fanatics
like Danny. Mr. Savo had to have his right eye surgically removed.
young boy who sleeps in the hospital bed on the opposite side of
Reuven from Mr. Savo. Billy became blind after a car accident and
is in the hospital in preparation for an operation to restore his
sight. Reuven later learns that the operation is unsuccessful.
Merrit’s father. He was the driver in the car accident that resulted
in his wife’s death and Billy’s blindness.
doctor who operates on Reuven’s eye at Brooklyn Memorial Hospital.
sickly six-year-old boy Reuven meets while in Brooklyn Memorial
Hospital. Mickey has lived most of his life in the hospital due
to a strange stomach condition.
Reuven’s friend and softball teammate. Sidney is a
likeable and athletic boy.
timid friend and softball teammate. At Hirsch College, Davey is
the student who informs Reuven about FDR’s death.
Danny’s burly Hasidic classmate and softball teammate.
A kindly yet strict nurse at Brooklyn Memorial Hospital.
A young Polish Jew who lived in the second half of
the eighteenth century. Solomon Maimon was a ravenously intelligent
student who studied non-Jewish literature after the Talmud could
not satisfy his hunger for knowledge. As a result of his heresy,
he died rootless and alone. In Chapter 6
David Malter says that Danny Saunders reminds him of Solomon Maimon.