David Malter’s speech at Madison Square Garden implies a certain kind of fanaticism that parallels Reb Saunders’s zealous behavior, including his refusal to speak with his son. Just as the rabbi is fanatically opposed to the modern State of Israel, so too is David Malter fanatically committed to its establishment—even at the expense of his health. We again realize that on a personal level, these two fathers are not as different as they appear to be.
When Danny worries about Professor Appleman, Reuven displays his belief in open verbal communication by suggesting that Danny go talk to his professor. Reuven’s advice is a product of his upbringing, in which his father has lovingly educated him using the spoken word. Reuven equates silence with loneliness, a lack of communication, and the elimination of learning. In his thoughts, he pities Danny for having to deal with his father’s inexplicable, “bizarre silence,” which Reuven believes must be “torturing [Danny’s] soul.”
In David Malter’s speech to Reuven about the importance of giving his life meaning, he refers to the image of the eye, which suggests the centrality of the eye—and by extension, the centrality of vision—to human life. Furthermore, the fact that he uses an eye not as a symbol of looking but as an example of something to be looked at introduces some complexity to the novel’s exploration of vision. Here, David Malter suggests that vision operates in two directions: the eye functions both to send and to receive information. He implies that vision—seeing the world—is a reciprocal process, a two-way street of giving and receiving.