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The Chosen

Chaim Potok

Chapter 3

Chapter 2

Chapter 4

Summary: Chapter 3

Reuven awakes to commotion in the hospital and the sound of the radio. Mr. Savo tells him that it is D-Day: the Allied forces have landed on the coast of France. For the rest of the morning, Mr. Savo, Billy, and Reuven excitedly listen to news of the war. As he listens to his radio, Reuven prays fervently with his tefillin. Mr. Savo asks why he is so religious, and Reuven reveals that he plans to become a rabbi.

After lunch, a sickly six-year-old patient walks into the ward and asks to play catch with Mr. Savo. Mr. Savo explains that the boy, named Mickey, has been hospitalized for most of his life due to a strange stomach condition. Thinking about such a tragic situation, Mr. Savo tells Reuven that they live in a “[c]razy world. Cockeyed.” Savo plays catch with Mickey, but the nurse scolds him. Mr. Savo’s condition is apparently much worse than he has let on, and the exertion of playing catch pains him.

Soon after, Mr. Galanter comes to pay Reuven a brief visit. He and Reuven discuss the invasion, and Reuven mentions that Billy’s uncle is a bomber pilot. Billy eagerly joins the conversation, asking Mr. Galanter why he is not fighting in the war, assuming that he was injured overseas. Mr. Galanter becomes extremely embarrassed, and hints at a physical condition that prevents him from serving. Reuven feels bad for his teacher’s embarrassment and, after Mr. Galanter leaves, Reuven falls asleep thinking about him, while continuing to fear for his own eye.

Reuven is awakened by a figure standing by his bed. When he opens his good eye, he is shocked to see Danny Saunders. Danny tries to apologize for injuring Reuven, but Reuven rudely dismisses him. Immediately, Reuven feels foolish for having treated Danny in such a way. Later that evening, Reuven’s father comes to visit. After he hears about the encounter with Danny, he reprimands Reuven. After Mr. Malter leaves, Roger Merrit, Billy’s father, introduces himself to Reuven. He asks Reuven to call Billy at home after he leaves the hospital, and Reuven agrees.

The next day, Danny returns and Reuven apologizes for his rudeness. Danny sits down at the edge of Reuven’s bed and tells him that he had wanted to kill him during the ball game, but he cannot understand why. When Reuven compliments Danny on his playing, Danny tells Reuven that his father permits him to practice baseball and read books only after he completes his required daily quota of Talmud—an astounding four pages a day. Danny reveals that this burden is in fact quite easy for him, because he has a photographic memory. He further explains that he is expected to take his father’s place as rabbi and leader of their Hasidic community, even though he would rather become a psychologist. Reuven, in turn, says that his father would like him to become a mathematician, but he is more interested in becoming a rabbi. Danny also reveals a curious fact about his father: Reb Saunders believes that “words distort what a person really feels in his heart,” and he “wishes everyone could talk in silence.” Danny leaves, promising to return the next day.

Analysis: Chapter 3

Chapter 3 begins with a lengthy description of the patients’ reaction to D-day, highlighting the historical circumstances of the novel’s setting. At first glance, this may appear to be a digression that has little or nothing to do with the main story about the relationship between Danny and Reuven. However, world events—and the characters’ reactions and relations to these events—play an important role in The Chosen. The events of World War II are important to Jewish history as well as to world history in general, and in later chapters, we see that Danny and Reuven’s relationship is inseparable from its historical context. Specifically, the Holocaust and its ramifications for the global Jewish community force the characters to examine the relationship between tradition and modernity.

Despite the differences between Reuven’s and Danny’s beliefs, both boys exist in Jewish communities that are markedly different from mainstream American culture. Furthermore, as Danny and Reuven talk in earnest for the first time, their similarities surprise them. Reuven is surprised by Danny’s perfect English speech and openness about his feelings—Danny does not fit Reuven’s stereotypes about Hasids. Reuven is learning to see Danny differently, by looking beyond superficial appearances. Reuven finds he and Danny have a lot in common, including an intense competitive drive and a fervent intellectual passion.

The parallel-but-opposite nature of Reuven’s and Danny’s situations emphasizes the difference in their relationships with their respective fathers. Danny wants to become an intellectual, but feels obligated to become a rabbi; whereas Reuven wants to become a rabbi, but feels pressure from his father to be an intellectual. Although Reuven does not discuss his own upbringing in this chapter, we see in Chapter 2 that Reuven and David Malter have an open, easy relationship built upon mutual concern and respect. In Chapter 3, Danny’s descriptions of Reb Saunders’s dominating parenting—the intense daily Talmud study he prescribes, his strong feelings against the apikorsim, his refusal to write or speak to his son—set up a contrast between Reb Saunders and David Malter, and between the two father-son relationships in the book. The contrasts between Danny and Reuven primarily revolve around the issue of choice. Danny is surprised that Reuven has chosen to become a rabbi, and then resignedly describes his own situation by emphasizing that he has no choice but to take father’s place.

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