The Chosen by Chaim Potok
In the novel, The Chosen, Chaim Potok successfully captures the strange customs of a Jewish community through wit and satire. Potok’s novel focuses on two Jewish boys, who live in a world where high standards of achievement are expected of them by their families. The wish to become an insightful leader in the Jewish community was an always predominant custom of the two families. But with hard work and perseverance, the two boys (Rueven and Danny), find out who they really are, and what lives they will lead in the future. The novel concentrates on the desire to conceive a person’s personal wants while conforming to tradition.
The basis of all the conflicts in the entire novel stem from the differences in family life which are brought on by the discrepancies of religious beliefs. Rueven, who is an Orthodox Jew, goes to a parochial school where Hebrew is taught instead of Yiddish (which would be considered the first Jewish language). Rueven’s school is also very integrated with many English speaking classes. But on the other hand, Danny, who attends a yeshiva (also a Jewish school), considers himself a true Jew because he (unlike Rueven) wears the traditional side curls and is educated in Yiddish. At first the two boys cannot stand each other, many times Danny refers to Rueven as “apikorsim,” (32) which basically translates to… someone who is not true to their religion. These differences between the two soon become obsolete with one unfortunate accident, and make them realize they could use each other to get through some hard times. “Silence is all we dread. There’s ransom in a voice–But Silence is infinity.”-Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson’s quote can be related to the novel in several ways. “Silence is all we dread,” can relate to Danny’s lifestyle and how he cannot stand the silence in which his father lives. The only time Danny makes conversation with his father is when he is studying the Talmud. ” It occurred to me suddenly that not a single word had passed between him and his father all evening, except for the Talmud contest” (145). This silence is basically what drove Danny to search for guidance or someone to talk to.
“There’s ransom in a voice,” relates to Rueven being Danny’s savior. As Danny explains to Rueven what he said to his father, “I told him we were good friends, I really think we are” (119). Danny relied on Rueven as a friend for the next several years. The silence was now bearable with a friend at his side. He eventually gained enough confidence with Rueven’s help to tell his father he did not want to become a Rabbi like him and his father. He had risked the destruction of traditional ways by disobeying his fathers wants.
“But Silence is infinity,” explains how Reb Saunders (Danny’s father) has raised his son in silence since he was born. Even though Danny is used to the silence, and still does not like it, others are appalled by it and do not understand it. Danny does not question the silence because his father does not speak. But by raising Danny in silence… it teaches him to be more independent, it puts him in the position to be a leader… a Rabbi, but Danny does not want this. He continuously reads books on great scholars and on psychoanalysis, because of this certain interest he decides he would like to be a psychologist. Danny explains to Rueven how he wants to be a psychologist, “I’ll be majoring in psychology” (148). The Dickinson quote relates to almost everything in the novel, and is very easy to use while explaining certain details.
The novel, The Chosen, shows us how important friends really are, and what kind of effect your family has on the decisions you make. The bond brought between Danny and Rueven is remarkable, a quest to absorb as much knowledge as possible like they did, is incredible. The strange way of bringing up a child in silence rubbed off on Danny a bit, he became a strong independent person on his own, with a little help from Rueven. In the end, Danny conforms with tradition and lives up to his fathers standards. As Rueven’s father questions Danny, “When you have a son of your own, you will raise him in silence?” (284) Danny responds, “Yes, if I can’t find another way.” (284) Danny finally understands his father, and respects him for his decision in choosing to raise him that way. Danny says to Rueven about him and his father, “We talk now.” (284)