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The Historical And Political Context Of The Novel "The Chosen" By Chaim Potok

1693 words - 7 pages

The Historical and Political Context of "The Chosen""The Chosen" is a novel written by Chaim Potok. This novel takes place in Brooklyn around the time of World War II, and is centered around the characters Reuven Malter and Danny Saunders, both Jewish teenage boys. Reuven is an Orthodox Jew, while Danny is a Hasidic Jew. Throughout the book, a strong friendship develops between these two boys, despite their contrasting cultures. There is a common theme throughout the book where religious Judaism and tradition is contrasted against the broader secular world and modernity. World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Death, the Holocaust, Zionism, and the formation of the State of Israel represent the culture of the modern secular world that collides with the religious culture of Reuven and especially Danny. In Hasidism, faith is traditionally not to be diluted by worldly concerns; however, the events that are happening in the world around Danny are so important that they have a very large impact on his faith and life. The historical and political context of "The Chosen" is a very important aspect of the novel because it broadens the scope of the story by bringing the story out beyond just Jewish culture and tradition.World War II plays an extremely important part in the story, especially in the first third of the book. Many Jews are obviously concerned by the war in Europe because Hasidism is strongly rooted in parts of Europe. Reb Saunders and his group of Hasidim that followed him from Europe are especially concerned, having grown up where the war is taking place. Because of World War II, American Jews are trying to prove to the rest of America that Jewish teenagers are just as "American" as other American teenagers. In the movie version of "The Chosen," Danny and Reuven are bullied and accused of being spies against the United States by other non-Jewish American boys. Events like this cause Jews to prove themselves to the rest of America that they are just as genuinely patriotic as other Americans. During the story, Jews in America have a reputation for not being as physically fit simply because they are known for their dedication to long hours of study. Jews not only want to prove that they are patriotic, but that they are also just as physically fit as other American teenagers. They do this by forming baseball teams in yeshivas and having the yeshivas compete against one another. It is important to note that baseball is a very American sport.The effect of World War II is what originally brings Danny and Reuven together through baseball. In the beginning of "The Chosen," their yeshivas are competing in a baseball game. Mr. Galanter, the baseball coach of Reuven's yeshiva, very well represents the echoing effects of World War II. Mr. Galanter is a patriotic Jew who transforms patriotism into passion for baseball - and vice versa - within the boys. He stresses patriotic awareness and the importance of athletics and physical fitness for the...

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