The Chosen

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Themes and Colors
Judaism and Tradition Theme Icon
Choosing and Being Chosen Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Rebellion Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
World War II and War Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Chosen, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Friendship Theme Icon

The first sentence in the book starts with a mention of Danny Saunders, the narrator Reuven Malter’s future best friend. This sets up what will be the most important relationship in the book: friendship. They meet as enemies during a brutal softball game in which Danny injures and nearly blinds Reuven, but they become fast friends when Danny comes to visit Reuven in the hospital for the second time.

The origin of this relationship demonstrates that friendship is not simply a fun, casual thing. It is also a serious and deep bond. David Malter tells Reuven the importance of friendship early on in the novel, “You know what a friend is, Reuven? A Greek philosopher said that two people who are true friends are like two bodies with one soul.” He also reminds Reuven of a saying from the Talmud that a person should “choose a friend.” This reference to the title in demonstrates that in a world where so much is determined at birth, friendship is a choice that one can use to shape a life.

Through their friendship Danny and Reuven are introduced to new world and gain a new perspective on their own lives. Danny learns about his father through Reuven because Reb Saunders communicates with Danny through his friend. Reb Saunders, by his own choice, cannot speak with his son, so he talks to Reuven about Danny while Danny is in the room. He does this because he knows that Reuven is an important, kind and intelligent figure in his son’s life. This again demonstrates the great influence that friendship can have, the way that it can open an individual to new perspectives.

Through the ability to discuss life with a peer, friendship provides an outlet for these boys. In the end they almost switch roles: Danny who is supposed to be a rabbi chooses to become a clinical psychologist, and Reuven who is supposed to be a mathematician chooses to become a rabbi. The ending leaves open the possibility that their friendship is waning as they enter new stages of their lives, but Danny and Reuven have clearly had a permanent impact on each other.

Friendship ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Friendship appears in each chapter of The Chosen. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Friendship Quotes in The Chosen

Below you will find the important quotes in The Chosen related to the theme of Friendship.
Chapter 2 Quotes

“Things are always what they seem to be, Reuven? Since when?”

Related Characters: David Malter (speaker), Reuven Malter
Related Symbols: Eyes and Blindness
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Mr. Malter angrily tells his son Reuven to question his assumptions about other people. Reuven, who's in the hospital with a ruined eye, claims that Danny Saunders (his opponent in the softball game) deliberately tried to hurt his eye with a softball. Mr. Malter tells Reuven not to jump to conclusions based on what "seems" to be true: instead, he must weigh the facts and assess all the evidence.

Mr. Malter's advice is both rational and deeply emotional. On one hand, he's trying to teach his kid to be logical and rational; in other words, to be a good student and (one day) a great mathematician. On the other hand, Mr. Malter's words can be interpreted as a plea for tolerance and friendship: as we'll see, Reuven will use his father's advice as an inspiration for befriending Danny, the very boy who hurt him.

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Chapter 3 Quotes

“What I tried to tell you, Reuven, is that when a person comes to talk to you, you should be patient and listen. Especially if he has hurt you in any way.”

Related Characters: David Malter (speaker), Reuven Malter, Danny Saunders
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Reuven has stubbornly refused to see Danny in the hospital. Danny has come to apologize to Reuven for injuring him in their game of softball, but Reuven refuses to listen to the apology. Reuven's father is disappointed with his son for being so stubborn. He reminds Reuven that the Talmud encourages Jews to practice love and tolerance at all times--especially tolerance of people who have caused others pain.

The notion that we should be compassionate to everyone--especially those who have hurt us--can be found in many world religions. Despite mentioning the Talmud, Reuven's father doesn't frame his advice in explicitly religious language in the passage, suggesting that Reuven owes Danny the chance to apologize for the sake of human decency more than anything else.

Chapter 4 Quotes

“You know what a friend is, Reuven? A Greek philosopher said that two people who are true friends are like two bodies with one soul.”

Related Characters: David Malter (speaker), Reuven Malter
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

Mr. Malter tells his son to befriend Danny Saunders-- the same boy who sent Reuven to the hospital in the first place. Mr. Malter suggests that Reuven's friendship with Danny is bigger and more significant than Reuven could possibly imagine. Friendship isn't just an interaction between two people: it's a vital, nearly sacred relationship.

Mr. Malter's advice to his son tells us a lot about his character. Malter doesn't care that Danny Saunders is of a different religion than his son: he wants the Orthodox and Hasidic Jews to get along and move past the mob-like rivalries we saw in the first chapter of the book. Notice, too, that Mr. Malter doesn't cite Jewish texts at all in this passage; instead, he mentions Greek philosophy. That Malter would mentions the Greeks' moral teachings, not the Talmud's, suggests that he's wide-ranging in his thinking, and embraces many different points of view. Just as Mr. Malter thinks that there's value in reading about other religions and ideologies, he thinks that there's value in a Hasidic and an Orthodox boy becoming friends.

Chapter 6 Quotes

“Reb Saunders’ son is a terribly torn and lonely boy. There is literally no one in the world he can talk to. He needs a friend. The accident with the baseball has bound him to you, and he has already sensed in you someone he can talk to without fear.”

Related Characters: David Malter (speaker), Reuven Malter, Danny Saunders, Reb Isaac Saunders
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Mr. Malter tells Reuven that Danny Saunders needs a friend. Danny Saunders has been raised to believe that he has been "chosen" to lead his community. Danny is only a kid--therefore, the burden of being a community leader is too much to bear. Danny needs someone to talk to about his burden, and his father is purposefully silent to him at all times. Mr. Malter believes that Reuven can play such a role as Danny's friend.

The passage is interesting because of the reason Malter gives for Danny's friendship with Reuven: he claims that the very fact that Danny hurt Reuven binds them together as friends. While it's odd for Mr. Malter to make such a claim, the passage suggests that he sees the "silver lining" in every tragedy--just as the Jewish community has always moved past historical tragedy by looking ahead to the future. The passage also reinforces the sacred side of friendship: it's suggested that Danny and Reuven's friendship is bigger and more important than either one of them can fully understand--that in a sense they're fated to influence each other's lives.

Chapter 7 Quotes

“You think a friend is an easy thing to be? If you are truly his friend, you will discover otherwise.”

Related Characters: Reb Isaac Saunders (speaker), Reuven Malter, Danny Saunders
Page Number: 142
Explanation and Analysis:

Reuven meets Reb Saunders, and Reb seems to approve of Reuven's friendship with Danny, in spite of the boys' religious differences. Like Reuven's father, Reb thinks of Danny and Reuven's friendship in large-scale, almost sacred terms. Danny and Reuven aren't just two boys spending time together--their relationship is broader and deeper than that. Reb insists that Reuven will soon discover how difficult it is to be a true friend to Danny.

Notice that while Reb alludes to the challenges of true friendship, he doesn't clarify what these challenges are. The implication is that no amount of teaching or lecturing can show Reuven how to be a good friend to Danny: he'll have to figure it out for himself. The passage suggests that The Chosen isn't just a book about friendship: it's a coming-of-age story in which Reuven's friendship will teach him valuable lessons about maturity and respect.

Chapter 11 Quotes

It was as senseless, as – I held my breath, feeling myself shiver with fear – as Billy’s blindness was senseless. That was it. It was as senseless, as empty of meaning, as Billy’s blindness. I lay there and thought of Roosevelt being dead and Billy being blind, and finally I turned over and lay with my face on the pillow and felt myself crying. I cried a long time.

Related Characters: Reuven Malter (speaker), Billy Merrit
Related Symbols: Eyes and Blindness
Page Number: 188
Explanation and Analysis:

In one of the low points of the book, Reuven receives word of Frank Delano Roosevelt's death, the horrors of the Holocaust, and his friend Billy's failed medical operation, all within a few days of each other. Reuven is overcome by the senseless tragedy of the world: there's so much pain and suffering around him.

Reuven's behavior in this scene indicates how compassionate he's become: he's genuinely moved by the pain of other people. At the same time, the scene represents a challenge to Reuven's faith in God--like so many religious people in the 40s and 50s, he questions how a just God could possibly allow so much tragedy to occur.

Chapter 13 Quotes

Poor Danny, I thought. Professor Appleman, with his experimental psychology, is torturing your mind. And your father, with his bizarre silence – which I still couldn’t understand, no matter how often I thought about it – is torturing your soul.”

Related Characters: Reuven Malter (speaker), Danny Saunders, Reb Isaac Saunders, Professor Nathan Appleman
Related Symbols: Silence
Page Number: 222
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Potok sums up the challenges that Danny faces as a Hasidic student of science. To Professor Appleman, his teacher, Danny's religious affiliation is interfering with his scientific studies: Danny is more focused on his subjects' souls than on their minds. By the same token, Danny's own father sees him as being overly scientific: Danny is focusing too much on psychology when he should be studying the Torah.

With great difficulty, Danny tries to balance his commitment to science and his commitment to Judaism. In doing so, however, he alienates both the scientific and the Jewish community. To Danny's father, he's overly invested in science; to Danny's college professors, however, he's allowed his Judaism to warp his scientific sense of the world.

Chapter 15 Quotes

We had begun to communicate with our eyes, with nods of our heads, with gestures of our hands.

Related Characters: Reuven Malter (speaker), Danny Saunders
Related Symbols: Eyes and Blindness, Silence
Page Number: 255-256
Explanation and Analysis:

After Danny and Reuven's fathers become rivals (one supports a Zionist state; the other doesn't), Danny and Reuven are forbidden to talk to one another. Even though Danny and Reuven obey their parents, they find ways to communicate with one another: smiles, gestures, nods, etc. Both boys realizes that it's possible to communicate without ever opening one's mouth. Moreover, silence need not be an expression of anger or severity--silence can communicate love and affection. Danny and Reuven don't talk to each other, but they make it clear that they're still friends.

The passage is important because it foreshadows arguably the most moving scene in the novel, when Danny's father shows that his silence was always intended as a sign of love, not cruelty or austerity. As a vital part of his coming-of-age, Reuven learns that silence can mean many things. On a more symbolic level, Reuven's embrace of silence teaches him that a seemingly tragic or painful event can be blessing in disguise, and that the same event can be interpreted in many different ways.