The Chosen


Chaim Potok

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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.

Judaism and Tradition

The Chosen takes place in an Orthodox community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn that is shaped by Jewish faith and customs. Chaim Potok highlights the influence of Judaism on his characters by filling his novel with references to and quotes from the Talmud (a book of Jewish laws and lessons) and the Torah. Reuven Malter and Danny Saunders, although they are teenage boys, think more about complex interpretations of Jewish texts than they do about girls…

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Choosing and Being Chosen

The title, The Chosen, introduces this theme immediately into the novel. First of all, in a novel about Jewish people and culture the term carries a religious meaning: the idea written in the Torah that Jews are the people chosen by God. This means that practicing Jews believe that they have a specific and exclusive order to follow and obey God. “Chosenness,” as it is called, is seen in the way that Danny and…

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Fathers, Sons, and Rebellion

The Chosen revolves around male relationships and the most important of these is that between a father and a son. Both Danny and Reuven are deeply influenced by their fathers. Both of their relationships are based on education, but they differ in every other way. Reb Saunders only speaks with his son when they are studying the Talmud because of Hasidic tradition and, as we learn later in the novel, a belief in the importance…

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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…

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World War II and War

The Chosen starts with a battle, or a near battle, in the form of a softball game between Reuven Malter’s school team and Danny Saunders’s infamously brutal Hasidic team. The Hasidic team plays with such brutality because they have been told that the only way that they will be allowed to have a team is if they make it their religious duty to beat the “apikorsim” (Jews who do not believe in god, or in…

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