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Author Chaim Potok
Type of work Novel
Genre Bildungsroman; Jewish-American Literature
Time and place written
in Philadelphia, Israel, and Brooklyn
Date of first publication
Publisher Simon and Schuster
The Chosen is narrated by Reuven
Malter, who reflects several years after the events of the novel
on his coming-of-age in Brooklyn.
Point of view Reuven Malter, the narrator, speaks in the first-person.
He explains events in chronological order, adjusting his perspective over
the course of the novel to reflect his increasing maturity. Reuven’s
narration is not omniscient, as he does not know what others are
thinking or feeling. Instead, he reveals Reuven’s observations of
others’ behavior and analyzes other characters’ thoughts and emotions.
Tone Reuven is an introspective, highly intellectual young
man. As a result, he is rarely quick to judge others, and usually
spends time considering multiple perspectives, trying to be as thoughtful
and open-minded as possible. These qualities only improve as his relationship
with Danny alters the way he looks at the world. It is important
to note that for the majority of the novel, Reuven is very quick
to judge Reb Saunders and rather harsh in his judgment. Only at
the very end of the novel does he learn that he has not been seeing
the complexity of Reb Saunders’s character.
Settings (Time) Early summer, 1944 to
Setting (Place) The neighborhood of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New
Protagonists Reuven Malter and Danny Saunders
Major conflict Danny’s struggle between his family and religious
obligations, and his desire to become a psychologist is the novel’s
central conflict. Reuven experiences this conflict indirectly—as
he helps Danny struggle through it, he struggles to understand it
Rising action After Danny injures Reuven during a softball game,
the two boys become friends and teach each other all sort of lessons.
After many years, Danny’s father, Reb Saunders, decides to end Danny’s
friendship with Reuven. Eventually the boys are permitted to become
friends again. Reuven discovers that Danny has applied and been
accepted to graduate programs in psychology, even though Reb Saunders
expects Danny to take over the leadership of his Hasidic community.
Climax Using Reuven as a buffer through whom he can speak
to his son, Reb Saunders confronts Danny. He asks his son about
his plans and explains his reasons for treating Danny with silence
for so many years.
Falling action After Reb Saunders issues his approval of Danny’s
plans for psychology, Danny and Reuven leave and walk together in silence.
Reuven and Danny graduate from Hirsch College, and Danny goes on
to graduate school at Columbia University. Reuven says farewell
Themes The importance of parallels to individual growth;
silence as a path to the soul; the conflict between tradition and
modernity; choosing versus being chosen
Motifs Father-son relationships; perception; suffering
Symbols Eyes and eyeglasses; the Talmud
Foreshadowing Foreshadowing is prevalent throughout The
Chosen. The warm silence between Reuven and Danny at the
hospital foreshadows the positive side of Reb Saunders’ silence.
David Malter’s comments to his son about the dangers of being a
buffer foreshadow the uncomfortable role Reuven will play as a buffer between
Danny and Reb Saunders. Danny’s revelation that his father inherited
his role as a tzaddik when his brother (Danny’s uncle) abandoned
the family dynasty foreshadows the fact that Reb Saunders will have
a complex and perhaps sympathetic response to Danny’s own situation.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Chosen!