Friday, January 13, 2012

Friends or Enemies?

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Friends or Enemies

Through the course of the novel it is shown that it is not just a story but the author is focusing on the importance of relationships as the issues in the society he is living in come to surface.

Chaim Potok’s The Chosen is an analysis of Society and the Individual. Through this analysis, Potok focuses on the key theme of the importance of relationships. During a time when the world was uneasy, Potok wrote The Chosen as a means of trying to understand what was happening in society. Through the characters he explores the issues like Religion, education, family, interests and careers, which relates to the theme of the importance of relationships.

Religion in The Chosen provides a solid yet confusing link in the friendship of Danny Saunders and Reuven Malter, as the boys are from different religious sects of Judaism. The first conflict between the two begins at a baseball game when Danny injures Reuven. The game turns into a religious war between Hasidic Jews and the more orthodox Jews. Danny is a Hasidic Jew and it is from the initial hatred of Reuven’s religious customs that their friendship is formed. Evidence of this is when Danny says “we’re going to kill you apikorsim” at the ball game and later when he visits Reuven in hospital the two start talking friendly about their different interests and religious views. Religion divides the two and at the same time brings them closer together. Judaism’s place in the modern world is questioned, as its adherents are torn between the demands of the secular world and their religious faith.

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Education is very important in the twentieth century and given the time in which the novel is set, education was the future. In the Chosen, education enables Danny and Reuven to meet each other through the school baseball game. When Danny and Reuven finish their high school studies, both boys attend Hirsch College, where they study together and their friendship becomes even stronger. The war ends whilst the boys are at college and the Zionist movement, directed at creating the secular state of Israel as a Jewish Homeland, becomes strong. Reuven’s father is very active in the movement and as a result Danny’s father who opposes it forbids Danny from associating with Reuven. During this time in society, tensions were high amongst the Jews and often heated fistfights and riots broke out on Hirsch Campus and other such places. When the United Nations finally approved of the creation of Israel, the fighting between the Jews subsided. Danny and Reuven renew their friendship and Danny tells Reuven that he is still pursuing his dream of becoming a psychologist. Danny used to worship a psychologist by the name of Sigmund Freud who was very controversial around this time. He tells Reuven he no longer thinks of him as a god and has learned to appreciate all forms of Psychology.

The boys interests are what actually allows them to start talking and become friends. Reuven learns when he is talking to Danny at the hospital that even though he is Hasidic, he still has a mind of his own, “He dressed like a Hasid, but didn’t sound like one”. Despite the boy’s very different backgrounds, they find that they have much in common. They are both very intelligent and good students. They are only born a few days apart and are in the same grade. Their career goals are however very different. Neither of the boys are really interested in the social aspects of life, but more into learning and studying. It is important in relationships to have someone who shares similar values and views life the way you do. During this time in society, the Jews were tense with the whole Zionist movement and with the war having just ended. To share your thoughts and ideas with someone was very important.

Family in the Chosen helps Danny and Reuven’s friendship as Danny is forced to share his thoughts and feelings with Reuven and his father. Danny’s relationship with his father in the Chosen is awkward. Danny longs to have a relationship with his father like the one he sees with Reuven and his father. He is troubled by his father’s silence and it is not until the end of the novel that he truly understands the meaning of the silence. Danny’s father had suffered greatly, having fled from Russia during the Bolshevik revolution with his followers after the murder of his wife and children. As Danny is unable to share his thoughts and ideas with his father he spends a lot of time talking to Reuven’s family. Families play an important role in the friendships of young people in society today.

In the twentieth century the importance of relationships between boys growing up has become more important than ever. With the ever rapidly changing world and tensions rising between countries, friendships can get people through tough times. As the Chosen points out, there are many children who have troubled family lives and rely on friends to help them out. This is seen between Danny and his father. Potok has brought up these issues through his novel the Chosen as he was trying to portray what was happening in the society around him.

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