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At the start of The Chosen Danny Saunders is a fifteen year old Hasidic boy, the son of the tzaddik Reb Saunders and thus destined to follow in his father's footsteps as the leader of his Hasidic sect. Yet Danny Saunders possesses a monumental intellect that cannot be satisfied by his instructions, which are almost primarily in religion, and instead wishes to study psychology despite the obvious conflict between the irreligious tenets of Freudianism (of which he is a great admirer) and his Hasidic belief. Dannyl must face the conflict between his father's wishes and his Hasidic background on one hand, and the more secular life that he desires on the other. Despite the conflicts of belief between him and his father, Danny never condemns his father for his often cruel treatment, but rather thinks it a necessary component of his training as a tzaddik.
Reuven Malterdoes not have father issues like Danny does. Reuven serves as a line of communication between Danny and his father, who speaks to Danny only when they discuss the Talmud. Although Reuven and Danny become friends, Reuven dislikes his father because of his stern treatment of Danny and his later command that Danny be forbidden to have any contact with Reuven because of his Zionist views.