The novel’s narrator and protagonist, Reuven grows up over the course of the novel, starting as fifteen year old and ending as a college graduate. He is an Orthodox Jew living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn with… read analysis of Reuven Malter
Danny is the other protagonist of the novel and Reuven’s best friend. They despise each other at the start, but quickly become close confidants. Danny desperately needs a friend like Reuven as he has… read analysis of Danny Saunders
Reuven’s father and an Orthodox Jew, Mr. Malter teaches Jewish studies and writes academic papers on the subject. He has created an educated and religious home for his son and teaches him from early… read analysis of David Malter
Reb Isaac Saunders
The religious leader, or tzaddic, of his Hasidic community in Williamsburg, Reb Saunders feels a great weight on his shoulders for the entirety of the novel. He is a very strict Hasid, who puts great… read analysis of Reb Isaac Saunders
An Orthodox rabbi and the professor of the highest-level Talmud course at Hirsch College. He teaches both Reuven and Danny and is a formidable and intimidating presence at the school. Reuven comes to learn that… read analysis of Rav Gershenson
Professor Nathan Appleman
Danny’s psychology teacher at Hirsch College, Appleman teaches his students the value of experimental psychology, which must be backed up by data and tests. Danny hates this at first, but after he talks with… read analysis of Professor Nathan Appleman
The blonde, angelic and blind boy in the bed next to Reuven’s in the hospital. Billy is eternally hopeful and sweet and talks about how he is going to receive a new surgery to… read analysis of Billy Merrit
Reb Saunders’ son and Danny’s brother, Levi is a sickly child who never speaks in the entire novel. He is also second in line after Danny to take his father’s place as tzaddic.
The Malter’s Russian housekeeper and cook who tends the house for Reuven and his father.
The boxer Reuven meets while in the hospital, Mr. Savo shows an outside perspective from the highly educated, Jewish population of the novel. Mr. Savo, who eventually has to have his eye removed, regrets becoming a boxer and warns Reuven to be wary of “religious fanatics” like Danny.
Billy’s father who was driving the car when his wife died and son was blinded. He is not fighting in the war because he has to take care of his children.
Reuven’s doctor who also treats Mr. Savo and Billy. He successfully operates on Reuven’s eye.
A little boy in the hospital who plays catch with Tony Savo. Mickey has been in the hospital his whole life because of a stomach condition.
Reuven’s friend and fellow softball player.
A player on Reuven’s baseball team who warns Reuven about the rough tendencies of Danny and his softball team.
A giant player on Danny’s Hasidic softball team.
The kind yet stern nurse at Brooklyn Memorial Hospital.
An 18th century Polish Jew who left Hasidism to study philosophy in Germany. In spite of his brilliance he was never content and died alone in France in the home of a kindly Christian friend. David Malter tells Reuven in chapter 6 that Danny reminds him of Solomon Maimon.