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The Novel “In the Beginning” by Chaim Potok Report

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Updated: Jun 23rd, 2020

The novel “In the Beginning” by Chaim Potok gives a poignant story of David Lurie. According to the novel, David Lurie must work hard in order to survive in his neighborhood. The targeted American neighborhood is characterized by many anti-Semitics and bullies. The narrator has a frail health. He encounters numerous challenges that affect his life. David’s family members are killed thus creating a hiatus in his life. Despite all these obstacles and events, David has to redefine his personal beliefs. He eventually develops new beliefs that contradict with his father’s worldviews. The agreeable fact is that David manages to achieve most of his ambitions and goals in life. However, he has to accept the realities and pains encountered by his people. This essay gives a detailed summary of chapters in the novel. The paper also presents a personal reaction of the novel.

Summary of the Book

Chapter One

  • The novel begins by stating that “all beginnings are hard” (Potok 3). This statement is what defines David Lurie’s early life in New York.
  • David’s life was dominated by many accidents and challenges. For example, David’s mother tripped while he was carrying him.
  • This accident occurred while David was in her mother’s arms.
  • Although the doctor’s examination did not reveal any health problem, the agreeable fact was that David had damaged his nasal septum.
  • This accident explains why David was ill throughout his childhood.
  • This situation made him fragile and weak. The first chapter gives a detailed analysis of David’s childhood.
  • The book also identifies the major challenges that affected the lives of many Jews in New York.
  • David also shooed a dog away while trying to protect his brother’s carriage.
  • The dog was killed by a car. The owner of the dog blamed David for the dog’s death.

Chapter Two

  • It is agreeable that David Lurie lived in a neighborhood characterized by many anti-Semitics.
  • David and other Jews encountered numerous obstacles in this neighborhood.
  • David accidently “ran over the hand of an anti-Semitic bully with his tricycle” (Potok 92).
  • The bully had harassed David for many years. Throughout the same period, the Great Depression continued to destroy the lives of many Jews.
  • David’s father was a great man who had achieved a lot in life.
  • It is also notable that Max Lurie was unhappy with the problems encountered by his people. His mission was to support and help many Jews.
  • He had worked hard in order to bring many Jews to the United States.
  • Towards the end of the chapter, David’s family is “informed about Mrs. Horowitz death” (Potok 156).

Chapter Three

  • This chapter shows that David is a genius who is interested in studying the Torah and the Bible.
  • However, many Jews are against the Bible because it presents new beliefs to every reader.
  • It is notable that David is surrounded by many scholars, both Jewish and German.
  • These scholars play a significant role towards reshaping David’s worldview.
  • David joins school with the hope of acquiring new understanding and knowledge.
  • He also begins to read questionable sources during the period.
  • The above events eventually make David a totally different person.

Chapter Four

  • It is notable that David is aided by different scholars. This scenario encourages David to choose between his heritage and the desire for knowledge.
  • David begins to examine the criticisms and arguments presented by many German scholars.
  • He finds valuables ideas and insights from these readings.
  • This development causes David’s world to tear apart. David begins to ask himself many questions.
  • However, most of his community members are unable to understand or answer such questions.

Chapter Five

  • The photographs of the events associated with the Holocaust appear in different newspapers.
  • The world is shocked after realizing that the Germans have been killing the Jews in mass numbers.
  • David realizes that most of his relatives have been killed.
  • This happening gives an analysis of the challenges experienced by many Jews in different parts of the world.
  • The only surviving members of the family include David’s uncle and father.
  • This fact explains why David’s father cannot allow him to read different German books.
  • This situation portrays the kind of anger experienced by David’s father.

Chapter Six

  • Towards the end of the book, David’s Rebbe encourages him to take his dangerous path.
  • He tells David that “every person is a fool if the Torah cannot go into his or her scholarship and come back strong” (Potok 401).
  • David’s Rebbe believes in the Torah because it is the only source of the truth.
  • David is supposed to travel to German in order to complete one of his scholarly works.
  • He is also required to study several manuscripts in Erfurt and Frankfurt.
  • This becomes something hard for him because he has to visit a disturbing place.
  • However, David decides to visit these two places in order to learn more about the history of his people.
  • He also decides to visit one of the camps in Bergen Belsen.
  • The agreeable fact is that his family perished in this camp. He eventually realizes that the camp had been turned into a cemetery.

Personal Reaction

To begin with, Chaim Potok’s book deals with the major challenges encountered by different Jews in Bronx. This neighborhood is also dealing with a major economic depression. The author seems to understand most of the issues affecting the Jews in this country. The story of David Lurie describes the difficulties, obstacles, opportunities, and issues encountered by many Jews in the world. The novel also deals with various issues such as family relationships, religious beliefs, racism, and anti-Semitism (Potok 64). These themes were prevalent throughout the 1920s and 1930s in the United States. The author has used simple terms and words to highlight the experiences of many individuals in the targeted neighborhood. The novel describes how the influence of modern traditions encourages many Jews to abandon their traditional beliefs. These descriptions make it easier for the reader to understand the main purpose of Potok’s novel.

The book is also admirable because it identifies the struggles encountered by many people today. For instance, David struggles to address the conflict between different scientific worldviews and religious beliefs. These challenges continue to affect many people in the world today. The novel makes it easier for the reader to understand the historical changes that affected many Jews throughout the early 20th century. This fact explains why the novel is one of the best sources of historical information. The novel explains why every society appears to have its unique challenges. Members of such societies should use the best opportunities and strengths in order to achieve their potentials.

The book also presents powerful virtues and strengths to the reader. The author encourages more people to make their own beginnings despite the difficulties affecting them. Every person should also focus on the future. Human beings should be ready to carry the burdens of their pasts. They should also embrace new ideas and practices in order to realize their potentials. The novel also encourages more people to work hard in order to overcome their challenges.

The uplifting story of David Lurie encourages more human beings to face the world will great courage and boldness. This approach will definitely support the changing needs of more people in the world. According to the novel, people should always be ready to fight for the things they love (Potok 374).

People should also be ready to deal with every obstacle. This practice will make our world much better. The novel also informs more people about the troubling history of the Jews. A proper understanding of this dark history will ensure more people deal with every vice. Some of these vices include prejudice and hatred. The author has therefore managed to highlight numerous themes that can support many people in their lives. I am therefore encouraging more people to read this novel because it presents powerful ideas. The lessons gained from this book can encourage every person to make his or her own beginning. In conclusion, Chaim Potok is a great novelist who knows how to deliver the best messages to his readers.

Works Cited

Potok, Chaim. In the Beginning. New York: The Random House Publishing Group, 1975. Print.

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