The Chosen

The Chosen Summary and Analysis of Chapters 10-12

Chapter Ten:

Danny and Reuven are together almost every day during the first month of the summer. Danny begins to read Freud in German, which is very difficult because of the strange terminology and ideas, as well as subtle German language distinctions between "fear" and "fright," for example. Danny realizes that he cannot read Freud, but instead must study him as he studies the Talmud with a commentary. Reuven spends a month in upstate New York. While Reuven was gone, Reb became angry when Danny took some books on contemporary Judaism into the house, but Danny had the courage to tell Reb that the books came from Reuven.


What was implicit in previous chapters becomes explicit in this chapter when Reb confronts Danny concerning his books on contemporary Judaism and he admits that the books came from Reuven. This is significant for several reasons. First, it makes it undeniably clear to Reb Saunders the effect that Reuven has on Danny, and he must either condone or condemn his behavior and cannot continue accepting it through denial. Second, this shows that Danny is becoming more confrontational with his father and is now willing to challenge him. This foreshadows later and more monumental challenges that Danny will make to his father's Hasidic value systems.

Danny's study of Freud also takes on a different dimension; Freud becomes a metaphor for religion for Danny, who approaches his study of psychoanalysis just as he studies the Talmud. Psychoanalysis thus becomes a religion for Danny, replacing his Hasidic studies as the intellectual endeavor of priority.

Chapter Eleven:

For the first two months of school, Danny and Reuven see each other only on Shabbat, for Reuven's evenings are filled with student council meetings. Danny continues to read Freud, but it has become upsetting and he wants to have a long talk with Reuven about it. In December and January, Danny and Reuven have very little contact at all, for Danny's brother is sick. The war looks ready to end, but one Thursday afternoon Davey Cantor brings news to a student council meeting that President Roosevelt is dead from a cerebral hemorrhage. Reuven feels that he has lost his father. David Malter discusses Roosevelt with Reuven, mentioning the horror of the Depression. Later there is word that the war in Europe is over, and news of the concentration camps starts to reach America. Reuven cannot grasp the numbers of Jews slaughtered. Reb Saunders laments "how the world drinks our blood, how the world makes us suffer." According to Reb Saunders, this is God's will, but Reuven admits to his father that he is not satisfied with this answer. David Malter says that the Jewish world has changed, and if they do not rebuild the Jewry in America, they will die as a people. David Malter suffers a heart attack two days after Reuven's final exam. Reb Saunders invites Reuven to stay in his home while David Malter recovers.


Events contemporary to the novel come into play during this chapter, as had occurred during Reuven's stay in the hospital, but assume greater importance as they actually affect the characters in the novel. Potok prepares for this through the news of Franklin Roosevelt's death, which makes Reuven feel as if he has lost a father; this shows the significance that sociopolitical events may have on a character and leads the way to the great impact that news of the Holocaust has on the characters in The Chosen.

The reaction of the characters demonstrates their differing perspectives on the world. Reuven can barely comprehend the massive slaughter that the Holocaust entails, while David Malter uses this as a call for political action. The most jarring reaction to the Holocaust comes from Reb Saunders, who views it as greater evidence that the world makes the Jewish people suffer. The Holocaust does not offer a contradiction to his view of the world; it merely confirms his most fatalistic beliefs in God's will.

Yet despite his near-masochistic fatalism, Reb Saunders proves himself to be capable of kindness and compassion when he allows Reuven to stay at his home while his father is in the hospital. This is further evidence that the stern and dictatorial Reb Saunders can be compassionate and caring, despite his cold treatment of his son and outmoded ideals.

Chapter Twelve:

The Saunders accept Reuven as a member of their family, and he and Danny do everything together that month. Reuven notices Danny talk to Reb only when they discuss the Talmud, for there is no simple, intimate conversation. Danny discusses Freud with Reuven, telling him that Freud's picture of man's nature is anything but religious. Reuven finds it surprising that Danny does not reject what Freud teaches.

During breakfast one morning, Reuven mentions that some are saying that it is time for Palestine to become a Jewish homeland and not only a place where pious Jews go to die, not mentioning that this is his father's idea. Reb Saunders becomes enraged, and says that the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will not be built by Jewish goyim while he lives. Later, Reuven says that he did not know that Zionism is a contaminated idea, and Danny asks not to mention a secular Jewish state again, for it touches a nerve. Danny admits that his father is suffering for the six million Jews who have died, and Reuven worries that Reb is sick.

One day, Danny muses that if he didn't take his father's place he wouldn't be breaking the dynasty, for he has a brother. Danny says he will tell his father this eventually, but not yet. Danny tells Reuven that he is intellectually trapped, and will need Reuven whenever he tells his father that he will not become a tzaddik. Reuven has nightmares that Reb Saunders screams that he has poisoned his son's mind. That September Danny and Reuven both enter Hirsch College.


Reuven's stay in the Saunders household confirms the strange lines of communication between Danny and his father, who speak directly to one another only when they discuss the Talmud. More importantly, it also confirms the validity of the view that Reb Saunders is tyrannical and dogmatic. When Reuven merely mentions the idea of Palestine becoming a secular Jewish state, Reb Saunders is ready to throw him out of the house and, as Danny indicates, Reb comes very close to doing just that. The conflict over Palestine once again highlights the importance of lines of conflict within the Jewish community.

Reb Saunders' suffering over the victims of the Holocaust suggests a recurring motif of sickness that pervades The Chosen. Each of the characters suffers from a physical malady: David Malter has a heart attack, Reb Saunders appears ill from his suffering, and Levi Saunders has a blood disease. Even Reuven had his brief stay in the hospital and Danny has poor vision. There is a psychosomatic element to both Reb Saunders' and David Malter's illnesses (David suffered his heart attack some time after learning news of the Holocaust) which suggests parallels between Reb and David. The major difference between the two is that Reb Saunders internalizes his agony and keeps it as privately concealed as possible.

Danny's suggestion that he might not become a tzaddik is a significant step, for it indicates that he will make a final break from his father's ideas. This chapter shows that Danny is becoming progressively secular in his beliefs, accepting Freudianism without comment even to the surprise of the seemingly more progressive Reuven. However, Danny's idea of ceding the position of tzaddik depends on his brother; as the previous chapter indicates, his brother's health is not necessarily stable and this may become an important factor.

Reuven reacts to this news with a sense of guilt, showing that he is more ambivalent about his role in 'corrupting' Danny than previously suggested. His dream that Reb Saunders screams at him is evidence of this ambivalence, but also contrasts with Reb's actual behavior. Although Reb is fearsome and dictatorial, his only outburst against Reuven comes when he mentions Palestine; Reuven perceives Reb Saunders to be far more threatening than his actual behavior suggests.