The Chosen

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The Chosen Chapter 13 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Danny and Reuven begin Hirsch Seminary and College, an Orthodox Jewish college that combines both religious and secular study. Danny is in the highest Talmud class with Rav Gershenson and Reuven is in the second highest. Danny is also studying psychology, but to his dismay at Hirsch this means experimental psychology. The chair of the department, Professor Appleman, dislikes psychoanalysis and Freud. Danny thinks that the test they are doing with rats and mazes have nothing to do with the mind.
Danny is encountering a new way of learning in college. Although he believed that psychology was a way of moving away from his tradition, he still studies it in a highly traditional manner, using the interpretive skills his father taught him. He knows nothing of the scientific method and this shows that in spite of his intellectual rebellion he is still deeply influenced by tradition.
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Danny becomes the “talk of the Talmud Department” and the unwilling leader of the Hasidic students at the school. He is not doing as well in psychology and gets a B his first semester because he messed up math equations on the exam.
Danny is encountering his first difficulty with school and like always his religious studies are no problem at all. He may be more qualified to be a rabbi but he still follows his more risky choice.
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Appleman thinks that the followers of Freud are dogmatic. Danny thinks that Freud is a genius, so of course they follow his teachings dogmatically. Reuven then compares Freud to a tzaddic. Reuven says that Danny should wait it out and have a talk with Prof. Appleman.
This demonstrates that the way Danny has been studying psychology is similar to his religious upbringing. Reuven believes in the power of communication, and urges Danny to talk to Appleman.
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Reuven goes inside to see his father, who has a bad cold—his third in five months. It is also unusual for him to be home because most nights he is out working on Zionist activities. He has been taking his work and his teaching very seriously and never regained the weight he lost in the hospital after his heart attack.
Mr. Malter is working himself to exhaustion. We have seen before that his health is largely connected to his emotional state and he is overwhelmed by his Zionist activities.
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Reuven tells his father that he wishes he would take it a little easy. Mr. Malter responds that it is not the time to take things easy when so much is going on in Palestine. He goes on to tell Reuven about the Jewish terrorist group, the Irgun, and the British resistance to their activities. Mr. Malter dislikes both the terrorists and the British non-immigration policy.
Mr. Malter shows that he cannot rest because of what is going on in Palestine. He has become obsessed with this issue and cannot think of anything else. In a way, he is trying to save the Jews, just as Reb Saunders worked to save his community in Poland.
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Mr. Malter tells Reuven that “man must fill his life with meaning.” Mr. Malter says that he is working so hard because he wants to fill his life with meaning so he will eventually be worthy of rest. This worries Reuven and Mr. Malter apologizes for having been too blunt, and assures his son that he will live a long life. Reuven makes his father promise to go for a doctor's check up.
Mr. Malter has become almost fanatical about a Jewish state. He speaks about it as if it were a religious cause, because it is to him. It is something that will give meaning to his life.
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To change the subject, Mr. Malter tells Reuven that Jack Rose, a non-observant Jew that Mr. Malter has known since he was a child, gave a $1000 contribution to their synagogue. Jack Rose joined not for himself, but so that his grandchildren would have a good synagogue to attend. Mr. Malter says that this is part of a Jewish religious renaissance in America.
Mr. Malter shows how the Jewish community is changing. Jews in American understand that it is their responsibility to uphold the Jewish faith after the Holocaust. Being religious doesn’t matter – it is an understanding of Jews as a race.
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In line with this conversation, Reuven tells his father that he is definitely going to become a rabbi. Mr. Malter says that Reuven would have made a great professor, but if Reuven has truly decided then Mr. Malter supports his choice.
Mr. Malter accepts whatever choice Reuven wants to make. In spite of his almost fanatical beliefs, Mr. Malter is still open minded about his son, especially as opposed to Reb Saunders.
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The next day Reuven goes to the library to read about experimental psychology. He sees how Danny must be very frustrated with it, because it focused on psychology from a physiological standpoint and has very little to do with psychoanalysis. Yet Reuven does see value in it. He sees how a science of psychology would need proof from laboratory findings. Reuven pities Danny because Appleman’s experimental psychology is torturing his mind while his father’s silence is torturing his soul.
Reuven is more in line with a modern way of thinking. He understands the value of scientific study. Reuven links Danny’s troubles at school to his familial problems because he knows that Danny is no longer able to achieve satisfaction is any area of his life. He used to have his reading as an escape. Reuven shows how much he has come to understand Danny.
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Danny follows Reuven's advice and speaks with Appleman, and tells Reuven that he know realizes that he is a “very fine person.” Appleman knows Freud through and through, and respects him, but says that experimental psychology would be a healthy balance for Danny. He also said that Danny should find a friend to help him with math on a regular basis. Reuven agrees, but when he jokingly calls himself Danny’s tzaddic, Danny does not find it funny.
Again open and honest conversation proves valuable. Danny learns that Appleman is a smart and kind man. Danny needs Reuven in a very concrete way. At the same time, Danny is still rigid: Reuven learns that he cannot joke with Danny about his religion – he is too self conscious about it and takes it too seriously.
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The tutoring with Danny is going well. Mr. Malter now speaks of nothing but Zionism and the education of American Jews. Hirsch College is also obsessed with the issue, but more divided. There were many “shades of Zionist thought” but the greatest division was between those who supported a Jewish state in Palestine, and the severely Orthodox, like Reb Saunders, who were vehemently against it. All of the students begin joining different groups, and tension is so high that fist-fights break out in the lunchroom. Danny keeps himself out of it.
Zionism has become the most important topic of conversation and it is a heated discussion that shows two ways of thinking about the Jewish response to the Holocaust. Mr. Malter views of personal responsibility vs. Reb Saunders’s ideas about waiting for God have divided the whole school. The Malter and Saunders views are representative of the ideas Jewish people as a whole at this time.
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Mr. Malter is preparing for a Zionist rally at Madison Square Garden. In his speech he says that only by creating a Zionist state will the deaths of 6 million Jews begin to make some sense, only then could Jews bring light to the world again. There was a huge snow storm the day before the rally and Reuven couldn’t attend because of schoolwork.
Mr. Malter sees a Jewish state as a way to respond to the Holocaust. This is how, as he told Reuven before, he wants to make meaning in his life. He wants to help Jews recover by giving them their own home after they have been chased out of so many other places.
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Reuven waits up all night for his father. Mr. Malter comes home a bit before one am, telling Reuven that the rally has been a huge success. The rally makes the front page of the New York Times the next day. Reuven is so caught up with all the excitement that he doesn’t notice that Danny did not have lunch with him as he typically does.
The Zionist cause is very popular in New York. Reb Saunders is fighting a losing fight. Reuven's failure to realize that Danny is avoiding him shows that he does not understand the extent of Reb Saunders’ hatred for Zionism–Reuven doesn't think about the consequences on his friendship.
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The next day, Danny indicates to Reuven that he should follow him into the bathroom. There, Danny tells him that his father read about Mr. Malter’s Zionist rally in the Yiddish newspaper and that Danny was no longer allowed to talk to or see Reuven. If Danny does see Reuven Reb Saunders will force Danny into an out-of-town rabbinic school with no secular education, forcing him to give up his study of psychology. A Hasid comes into the bathroom and Danny moves away from Reuven and then leaves without looking at him.
This is the height of the conflict between tradition and modernity in the novel. Reb Saunders has shown that he likes and trusts Reuven but his passionate hatred for Zionism blinds him. He also proves that he knows how important a secular education is to Danny. Danny must choose his family and education over his friendship.
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Reuven feels angry and sad. He notices that all of the Hasidic students avoid all contact with him. He is angry with “Reb Saunders’ blindness” and frustrated “at Danny’s helplessness.” Reuven talks to his father about this and his father explains that Reb Saunders had to do this to because of his congregation. How could he tell them that his son was friends with a Zionist leader?
The symbol of blindness shows that Reb Saunders’ fanatical passion has clouded his rational thought. He has trapped his son into an unfair situation. He is also trapped by his role as a leader in the Hasidic community. This shows again what Danny wants to avoid by not becoming a tzaddic.
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Reuven calls Reb Saunders a fanatic and Mr. Malter responds that “the fanaticism of men like Reb Saunders has kept us alive for two thousand years of exile.” He goes on to say that we would have a Jewish state if the Jews in Palestine had the same fanaticism. Reuven can't fall asleep and lays awake thinking of everything he and Danny had done since his ball struck Reuven’s eye.
Mr. Malter and Reb Saunders are both fanatical in their own ways. Mr. Malter understands where Reb Saunders is coming from because he believes in the importance of passion and having a purpose in one’s life regardless of the consequences.
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