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The Chosen: Old Habits Die Hard

1784 words - 7 pages

A novel unparalleled to any other during its time period, The Chosen by Chaim Potok introduced outsiders to the life of Hasidic Jews and modern Jews during the horror of World War II and the aftermath of the Holocaust. The Holocaust was not the only time in the history of the Jewish people when they were persecuted and oppressed. Starting long before the thirteenth century, the Jews were always looked down upon and victimized; however, the resentment from torment during the thirteenth century of the Jews had been carried to members of the Jewish sects in the mid-twentieth century. The distinct sects lashed out at each other instead of the world. That hatred carried from the 1200s through the 1950s fueled the revulsion between Danny Saunders and Reuven Malter, thus creating the conflict that fueled the entire novel. Understanding of historical events is crucial in comprehending the initial conflict affecting the two boys.
In order to help his son Reuven better understand the reasoning behind Danny’s hatred, David Malter relayed the history of the Jews Reuven had not yet learned in school. Sam Bluefarb mentioned the importance of history in his analysis “The Head, the Heart and the Conflict of Generations in Chaim Potok’s The Chosen.” Recorded in Bloom’s Literary Themes Alienation, this analysis was featured in College Language Association Journal (1971), “In a sense, The Chosen is a kind of exercise in the ‘Hegelian’ dialectic which the Hassidim and Misnagdim have engaged in for the last two and a half centuries…” (53). Although not all critics agreed with the inclusion of Chapter 6, the lecture from David to his son Reuven, others felt it was a very necessary enclosure:
Many critics, though, thought Potok slipped into the role of pedantic lecturer in these passages, bogging down the narrative’s momentum; Sternlitcht, citing ‘Potok’s role as teacher/writer,’ defended the inclusion of a lecture on Jewish history in the novel, though, noting that ‘the serious reader should slow down and absorb the lessons. There is much to be learned from Chaim Potok’ (Sternlitch 44), (Bloom’s The Chosen, 39)
History was included in order to help the reader better understand the motives behind Danny and Reuven’s feud. Without the addition, non-Jews would not be able to fully comprehend the importance of the characters’ roles in the novel.
The Jewish community had always carried a long history of maltreatment. During the thirteenth century, Poland recruited Jews to help, “build her economy, organize her affairs, and bring her to life. Jews had a reputation for possessing these abilities, (The Chosen, p. 101).” Through their occupation of helping the nobles, the Jews created a gap between themselves and the oppressed people of Poland. Having to collect taxes from the, “serfs and peasants,” (The Chosen, p. 102), the Jews had enough hatred built up against them to cause an incredible amount of suffering. That suffering was the result of...

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