Study Questions & Essay Topics
1. How does Potok weave together personal and political events in his novel? How do politics and world events contribute to the novel’s plot and character development?
2. How does Potok use silence as a narrative technique?
3. Discuss the meaning of the novel’s title. Who or what is chosen in the book? Which is more desirable: to be chosen or to make a choice?
Suggested Essay Topics
1. Many critics have written that The Chosen is a distinctly American novel. They argue that the novel’s plot is centered on the concept of the American dream, the ideal that anyone can have the opportunity to become anything. Do you agree or disagree with this analysis? Could the novel take place in another setting?
2. Discuss Judaism in The Chosen. Why are there no important non-Jewish characters? Why is the novel restricted to a Jewish environment?
3. In The Chosen, every character, event, action, and idea seems to have a parallel, an opposite, or a complement. Identify several such relationships, and explain the purpose they serve in the novel.
4. Why do you think Potok chose to tell the story from Reuven’s point of view? What narrative advantages does Reuven have over Danny? What advantages does Reuven’s limited first-person perspective have over an omniscient third-person perspective?
5. Compare Reb Saunders’s political ideology to David Malter’s. At times, each father feels threatened by the other’s views. At other times, each father displays strong respect for the other. How are the two men different from one another, and how are they are similar? How can they both dislike and respect one another at the same time?
6. Where are women in The Chosen? How do they play a part in the story? If they are absent, why do you think Potok excluded women’s voices?
7. Throughout the novel, Potok uses imagery of eyes, glasses, and other items associated with vision and perception. What do these images symbolize? Discuss several examples, including at least two in which eyes reveal a character’s feelings.
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