At the end of Chapter 9, Potok abruptly changes the tone of the novel’s narration, filling Reuven’s description of the spider and housefly with symbolic language and imagery. The trapped fly symbolizes the cruelty and suffering that are an unavoidable part of the natural world. Reuven’s freeing of the fly reflects his desire to alleviate this suffering. At the same time, in trying to help the fly, Reuven hurts the spider, which suggests that helping someone possibly and perhaps even necessarily hurts someone else.

Chapter 10 accelerates the story, relating the events of the entire summer in just a few pages. Previous chapters took place over the course of a day or two, and the duration of all of Book I (Chapters 14) is less than a week. Chapter 10’s accelerated time frame, which continues for most of the remainder of the novel, reflects the accelerating maturity of both Danny and Reuven. They are growing up rapidly and acquiring more commitments and responsibilities. The frenetic pace introduced in Chapter 10 also reflects the increasingly frenetic pace of Reuven’s and Danny’s lives. At the end of the chapter, Reuven remarks, “for a long while I had no time at all to think about, let alone discuss, the writings of Sigmund Freud.” To show that Reuven and Danny have less time for discussion and introspection, Potok relates fewer of Reuven’s and Danny’s thoughts and words.

Chapter 10 also introduces a parallel between Danny’s study of Freud and his study of the Talmud. By teaching Danny how to analyze Talmud, Reb Saunders unknowingly has equipped Danny with the skills he needs to understand Freud. Furthermore, Danny is using methods gleaned from his religious study to learn material that subverts his religious faith. This parallel makes us question whether Danny will be able to reconcile his conflicting obligations to his father and faith on the one hand, and his desires to pursue secular thought outside the bounds of his tradition on the other hand.