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“The Chosen” by Chaim Potok Review Essay

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Updated: Oct 14th, 2021


‘The Chosen’ is revolutionary book that has got an intense approach towards the psychological transformation of a character called Reuven. This is a simple story that has got the kind of transformation that became obvious to the people of Palestine. It was published by Fawcett in April 12, 1987 and can be considered as a historical interpretation. The originality and the existential factors became a big question amidst diaspora. The story is about a kind of transformation that a Palestininian young man undergoes to be part of the society he is living.

About ‘The Chosen’

The onset of the plot ‘The Chosen’ is a simple story by Chaim Potok that begins in 1944. The whole scenario has got beginning with a softball game that takes place in a Jewish section placed in Brooklyn, New York. It is between students who are from two Jewish parochial schools from Brooklyn, New York. As the narration states both the teams are specifically represents two different Jewish sect. Both the teams are from a different level of Jewish religious observance.

As for one of the important characters, Danny Saunders; he represents a Hasidic sect that was initially led by his father, known as Reb Saunders or ‘Rabbi’ in short. On the other side, it is Reuven Malter who is leading the team that is well composed of the Modern Orthodox Jews. These are the people who are not as ultra-Orthodox. As for this team, these guys are unlike the other in terms of the religious observances that they follow as Hasidic Jews. Reuven’s father is David Malter, who is actually a yeshiva professor.

The book is an absolute see through about the instances that leads to a kind of transformation under the political and religious stress. The attempt as has been taken by Chaim Potok are very much practically driven and he has made a strong analytical narration that can give the real picture of the results that have come under the influence of American decision of distributing Palestine into a separate Arab state and an exclusive Jewish state. The narrative technique of Chaim Potok is very much related to the consequences as has been faced by the people of Palestine living all over the world. The pivotal character of the narration is Reuven, and through Danny, we come to know how Reuven is making all kinds of compromises in order to be a part of the society he is living. The efforts as has been taken by Reuven are very much for the sake of making him a part of the society, irrespective if what he originally is.

This particular narration is absolutely dealing with few of the themes all together. There is the post WWII continuity in the psychological ground. The political themes too are integral to the plot. The community participation of the two vivid communities; too considered to be a part of the narration. The crush that happened in the game brings in the concern of the vividness of the two communities under the same roof. As Danny’s ball hits Reuven on the face there comes in the space for the discussion over the different religious follow ups that these guys are going for. This is the core of the whole narration. There are many confessions and statements that are relevant enough to state, how these two communities dwell amidst all differences and that too with so much in common.

Chaim Potok is also very particular use of language among these communities. As he states that that difference between these two communities are also in the language that they use. Both the different Orthodox Jews can be well identified on the basis of the language that they use. As Reuven learns about the contemporary Jewish subjects in the language of Hebrew; Danny, on the contrary learns all these subjects in the concrete Yiddish language.

Chaim Potok was very particular while dealing with the theme of language difference. He is well clear with the introduction over the importance that lan-guage or as in the case of Danny, the silence language is considered as the matter of expression in the novel, ‘The Chosen’.

Interpreting Christian

As the book proceeds, the writer brings in the matter of culture and the difference that exist in the religious concern of both the teams. On cultural ground, the Jews are basically divided between two sections. The first being the ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jews and the next is the Modern Orthodox Jews. The difference that comes in is related to the admixture of the Christian cultural identity. As for the instance, it has been discovered that Chaim Potok, declares that all the male Orthodox children are intended to attend yeshivas on compulsion basis. Even then there are some people like Reuven Malter, who even after being yeshivas, keeps the interest of teaching more English subjects in the community. He is different from other yeshivas, like those of Danny Saunder.

The sense of being under the influence of Christianity; brought in a kind of insecurity in Danny Saunders. It is here that the role played by Reuven Malter becomes sensitive. The representation of these two Orthodox Jewish sects is the core of the whole novel. There is the Hasidic Jews along with the Modern Orthodox Jews, with some kind of tolerance with Christianity. The effort of Potok is well in reference to the establishment of the boys’ religious and communal rivalry is expressed through the dominance of the leader of each of the softball team.

Added to all these concern, there is also the matter that is related to the religious differences that can be well dealt with in America. These differences are all well sorted through find a common ground in every American softball game. As the boys’ are all from the yeshivas origin, there is also the introduction of softball to all the students irrespective of being a Jew or Christian. This is very much related to the demonstration American patriotism consequences in relation to the World War II. The dealings related to Christianity are like a way out among all these discriminations. Christianity seems to be the only solution that can bring in some common features among these small communal differences. Chaim Potok has introduced and narrated Reuven as the source for this. This is a character that believes in this newfound importance. As in the following quoted words the intention as led by the author is clear enough,

“[T]o be counted a loyal American had become increasingly important to us these last years of the war.”

Personal participation

The book is like an interpretation that deals with all kinds of matters related to diaspora. The narration can be related to all those people who are living in America, and are in a state of confusion with the identity. As the book deals exclusively with identity crisis, I feel that through this there can be the act of opening eyes in terms of making one concern to the state of living. The way the relationship between Danny and Reuven, goes under transformation and ends with good and positive aspects for future, there is the message that no matter whichever religion or community you belong to, in America you get enough social exploration for a positive conclusions related to the establishment of multiculturalism. America has been well demonstrated by Chaim Potok as a land for the establishment of all kinds of religion, with enough liberty for the exploration of self preferences. This is the most amazing description that I consider to be very appropriate to American culture.

Works cited

Chaim Potok, The Chosen, Fawcett (1987)

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IvyPanda. (2021) '“The Chosen” by Chaim Potok Review'. 14 October.

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