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Literary Criticism on the Chosen

By Aton2032 May 16, 2005 777 Words
In The Chosen, Potok describes the Jewish culture during the period of World War I. Beginning with the affluence of Polish Jews before the war, Potok established a circle of relationships. In the book, there are three main relationships. The first one is father-son, between Danny and his father, Reb Saunders and between Reuven and his father, David Malter. The relationship between Reuven and Danny is the second main relationship in The Chosen. The third main relationship is Hasidism verses Zionism.

The relationship between the two fathers and the two sons is a very important theme in this book. Because of their different backgrounds, Reb Saunders and David Malters approached raising a child from two totally different perspectives. Despite the obvious differences in the two men's beliefs, both did what they thought was right for their sons. Reb Saunders was a Hasidic tzaddik and wanted his son to follow in his footsteps. He raised Danny in silence, hoping to teach him to listen to silence, to learn compassion, and to develop a soul to go with his mind. Unless it had to do with religious studies, Reb never had an actual conversation with Danny after the age of 3. Reb wanted Danny to find things out for himself. On the other hand, Reuven's father, Mr. Malters, felt it very important that he had good and frequent communication between himself and his son. The two would sometimes talk for hours about life, different religions, friends and anything else Reuven would want to talk about. Mr. Malters wanted Reuven to be able to come to him with any questions. Danny didn't have a close relationship with his father, which explained his dependency on Reuven. Even though Reb Saunders and Mr. Malters raised their sons in totally different ways, they did it all out of love and felt that what they were doing was the right thing.

The relationship between Danny and Reuven is a very big theme in The Chosen. Danny and Reuven are two boys who have grew up within a few blocks of each other, but in two entirely different worlds. They meet for the first time in at a school baseball game between their two Jewish schools. Even though at first their only feeling for each other is one of hatred, they eventually get over their differences and become the best of friends. They learn a lot about each other and about the others life and religion. The boys' fathers have very different views and that's gets them in trouble. Danny's father disagrees with Reuven's father's point of view on a certain topic, and forbids Danny from ever seeing Reuven again. After some time Reb gets over himself and permits Danny to see Reuven again. This situation goes back to the fathers' ways of raising their child and their view on their religion. The next important relationship is between Hasidism and Zionism, which also relates back to the fathers and the boys. Both Hasidism and Zionism are different sects of the same Jewish faith. They both have the same basic beliefs and worship the same God. Although there are some similarities between the two, there are also some significant differences. Zionism, which is what the Malters' belief was, believed that the promise land lay in the hands of the Jewish people. They felt that they needed to go out into the world and change things. They felt that life was important and they needed to be productive in making things for the better. Hasidim, which was The Saunders' belief, believed that people were simply passing through the world on their way to eternal life and that it was unimportant and burdening to try to change the world, even if it was for the better. They felt that anything they did might corrode their faith and they should protect themselves from the evil found in the world. Hasids felt that the promise land was going to come on its own time and they didn't want to do anything to mislead it. Despite these differences, both religions truly love God and want to serve Him in everything they do. Almost everything in Potok's book relates back to something. In the examples I gave you, the relationships between the fathers and the sons relate to the differences in religious beliefs. The relationship between Reuven and Danny relate back to both the fathers and their certain religious beliefs. The two religious beliefs, Hasidism and Zionism, are, I believe, the main relationships in this book and almost everything Potok writes about has to do with one, the other, or both.

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