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The Chosen

Chaim Potok

Chapter 17

Summary Chapter 17

There are many other instances of silence within the novel, which reinforce the complexity and subtlety of the relationship between silence and communication. When Danny reveals that he has learned to hear silence, he strengthens the idea of silence as a means of communication. Danny’s paradoxical statement perplexes Reuven, because it implies that a lack of sound need not entail a lack of knowledge and information. Danny’s statement shows us that silence is a complex concept, that it can have form and function, and that it can affect a person as much as words.

Furthermore, in this chapter, David Malter continues the silence he has been imposing on Reuven. Leaving Reuven bewildered, he again refuses to explain Reb Saunders’s behavior. At the end of the chapter, Reuven realizes that by refusing to visit the Saunders household, he himself has been imposing a silence upon Reb Saunders. Reuven has been preventing Reb Saunders from communicating with Danny the only way he is able to, through Reuven.

The conversation between Danny and David Malter at the Malter’s apartment is the first time since Reuven’s hospitalization that all three have had a conversation in the same room. This interaction disrupts the binary relationships that Potok has carefully set up over the course of the novel. Up to this point, David Malter and Reuven have been a pair, set in opposition to the other father-son pair, Danny and Reb Saunders. Danny and Reuven are also a pair, set in opposition to the figures of David Malter and Reb Saunders. Here, the boundaries between the pairs collapse as Danny—for the first time since Reuven’s hospitalization—talks directly with Reuven’s father. This collapse in the book’s boundaries foreshadows the crucial change that occurs in the following chapter, during the book’s climax.

David Malter reveals a surprising facet of his character during his conversation with Danny. As he talks to Danny about silence, his response reflects astonishment at—perhaps even respect for—Danny’s ability. David Malter tells Danny that Danny’s father will want him to raise his own children in same way. David Malter’s response to Danny’s decision has a different tone than the disgust he displayed earlier, when he could not understand why the Hasidim felt like they had to carry the burdens of the world. As we shall see in the coming chapter, David Malter’s opinions of Hasidism are complex and differ from how they first appeared.