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The Chosen

The Chosen


by Chaim Potok

The Chosen Chapter 2 Summary

  • The cab comes and they ride several blocks to Brooklyn Memorial Hospital.
  • Galanter is very nervous, making Reuven protect his eye with a handkerchief, and telling him not to blink.
  • Reuven is scared, dizzy, and sick to the stomach.
  • After they check in, Mr. Galanter says that Reuven has earned a Purple Heart for his bravery. The baseball-war metaphors just don’t stop around here!
  • Reuven apologizes for causing trouble and for losing. Mr. Galanter assures him kindly that he’s done nothing wrong and that there’s always next year.
  • Then, he asks Reuven if he knows anything about Danny. Reuven says no, and then says that the pain in his eye is bad. Mr. Galanter decides that this is an appropriate time to call the kid’s dad.
  • Suddenly, a nurse appears and leads them to an examination room.
  • While Reuven is on the table looking at the ceiling with one eye, the doctor suddenly appears and jokes a little that Reuven "stopped a ball with [his] eye."
  • The doc learns that Reuven was wearing glasses and then begins to examine his eyes with a light. When Galanter hears Reuven say his vision is blurry, he decides to go call David Malter, but he has a conversation with the doctor first, who informs him that Reuven has to stay in the hospital for a bit, just to be safe.
  • As he’s leaving, Reuven asks Galanter to tell his dad to bring his spare specs.
  • Meanwhile, back on the examination table, we establish that Reuven’s head hurts.
  • We reestablish that he’s sick to his stomach, his wrist hurts, his team lost, and that there’s something wrong with his eye.
  • As Reuven lies on the examination table, musing, Reuven starts hating Danny and his teammates again, and he almost starts crying when he thinks of his dad getting that phone call.
  • The first doctor comes back with another doctor, who, after examining Reuven’s eye, looks alarmed and says that another doctor, Snydman, needs to look at it. The doctors leave. Galanter comes back in and tells him that he got a hold of his dad, who will soon arrive.
  • Snydman comes in and looks at Reuven’s eye, then says they will need his dad’s signature to proceed.
  • He tells Reuven that he shouldn’t be putting his eyes in front of balls, eliciting a protest of innocence from him.
  • In the elevator on the way up to the eye ward, Reuven freaks everybody out when he says the ordinary fluorescent light is changing colors. It makes Galanter say "Jesus," and Reuven wonders why he says it now when he’s never said it before.
  • He continues pondering the colorful light, and then someone wipes his forehead, and boom, he’s out.
  • We next encounter Reuven opening his right eye. A nurse sees him come to, and asks how he’s doing.
  • First, he remembers nothing, then everything, and becomes speechless.
  • The nurse examines him some more and Reuven asks for his father, who is scheduled to arrive any moment.
  • The nurse goes to get him some food, and he wonders how they managed to get rid of his pain. He becomes fascinated with a man in a bed near him. Reuven figures he’s about thirty.
  • And, now, for a brief literary terminology interruption:
  • You probably picked up on the fact that there’s lots of "dramatic irony" going on here. That just means that we know more than Reuven does.
  • From Reuven’s description, we understand that the guy in the bed is a rough character – he has scars, and a "flat" nose.
  • He’s playing cards in bed; we figure it’s probably solitaire.
  • Then, he starts in with what we can identify as 1940s tough-guy-boxing talk. The guy is a boxer, and was supposedly injured in a boxing match.
  • But, Reuven can’t understand anything he’s saying, partly because he’s been a little sheltered, and partly because he’s doped up from the surgery.
  • Lesson over.
  • Even though Reuven is confused as heck, he listens (read: spaces out) to be polite.
  • When he realizes the guy has stopped talking and is re-absorbed in his card game, he turns away and becomes fascinated with another patient in the eye ward:
  • A pretty, ten-year-old, blond kid who is blinking at the ceiling catches Reuven’s eye. He begins to take in the ward, but has trouble because he’s seeing out of only one eye.
  • It’s clear that he’s doped up from his eye-surgery and just sort of floating around the room.
  • He remembers his wrist and tries to move it, but finds that it hurts.
  • His wrist reminds him of Danny, whom he starts hating on again. He calls him, in his mind, "That miserable Hassid!"
  • A male nurse (in this book, the male nurses are called "orderlies" and the female ones are called "nurses") wheels in the food trays for the patients.
  • The rough boxer guy says, "Chop-chop […] Time for the old food bag," and then asks the nurse what’s for dinner.
  • The nurse calls him "Killer" and says he’ll be over there in a second, bypassing him to get to the little kid Reuven was looking at earlier. His name is Billy, and as Reuven notices, all of the sudden, that he’s blind.
  • The boxer guy starts complaining when he hears that chicken is on the menu, in a half-joking, half-serious kind of way.
  • The lady nurse comes over to Reuven’s bed and adjusts him, and asks him how he’s doing.
  • Reuven is super-polite to her. She opens a drawer and gives him a skullcap, saying his father left it for him earlier.
  • He wonders when his father was there, and starts to realize that he lost time from the operation (fifteen-year-old kids in the 1940s didn’t have ER and House to explain these matters to them).
  • He thanks the nurse, and then the boxer calls out to the nurse – "how come chicken again?"
  • She says, "Mr. Savo, please behave yourself."
  • He mock-agrees with her. If they are flirting, Reuven isn’t aware of it.
  • After she leaves them, Reuven asks Mr. Savo the day and date, and we learn that it’s Monday, June 5, 1944. Reuven realizes he’d been out for nearly twenty-four hours.
  • He introduces himself as Reuven Malter, but, when Mr. Savo can’t pronounce his first name, he changes it to Robert Malter.
  • Savo asks him if the skullcap has something to do with his religion.
  • Reuven confirms it and Savo praises religion. He introduces himself as Tony Savo, and, when he starts in with the boxer-talk this time, Reuven understands what he’s talking about. They converse and soon Billy introduces himself to Reuven and joins the conversation. He asks Reuven to describe himself; he says he has dark hair and eyes, an ordinary face, is five-foot-six, and has a bandaged eye.
  • We learn that Billy is in the hospital for an operation, which could restore the sight he lost in a car accident. Apparently, Billy’s dad was driving. The accident killed Billy’s mother, and wasn’t his dad’s fault.
  • The conversation is interrupted when the male nurse comes in to clear away the dinner plates, and soon Reuven’s dad comes.
  • Reuven almost starts crying when he sees him. He looks tired and ill, and tries to smile, but has a hard time.
  • He says he’s heard all about the ball game from Mr. Galanter, who’s been very concerned about Reuven.
  • Reuven wants to know if his eye will be OK.
  • His dad looks nervous and says that of course he will be; the operation went fine.
  • Reuven starts freaking out, because he didn’t know he’d had an operation.
  • His father explained that the operation was to remove a piece of glass that had been stuck in his eye, right near the pupil.
  • Reuven presses his dad to tell him if there’s something wrong with the eye, but his dad insists it’s fine, and then starts coughing and hacking. Reuven realizes that his dad is really sick.
  • They continue talking about the eye, and Reuven notices that a guy who must be Billy’s dad has come in. Reuven’s dad tells him that there is a cut in his eye from the glass, which has to heal.
  • Reuven guesses that the problem is scar tissue, that when the cut heals it can create a scar over the pupil, which would probably have an adverse impact on Reuven’s vision.
  • Rueben is sick with fear, and his father tries to reassure him, and, when that doesn’t work, he changes the subject.
  • It seems that Reb Saunders and David Malter have been talking, and Reuven should expect a visit from Danny Saunders, who is sorry about what happened.
  • Reuven expresses bitter doubt, and his father starts to hack and cough again. He apologizes and says that he caught a cold. Reuven chastens him for not taking good care of his body.
  • His father starts talking lovingly about how much he worries about him, his "baseball player."
  • Reuven says the whole thing is Danny’s fault, and blames him for his father’s illness.
  • When his father expresses confusion, Reuven explains that Danny hit him on purpose, causing his father’s worries, which, in turn, caused his father’s illness.
  • David Malter is aghast and wants to know if Reuven is sure of what he’s saying.
  • So he tells his dad about the threats of apikorsim killing, but his father is confused and doesn’t believe it.
  • Reuven is excited and says that Danny is only sorry that he didn’t succeed in killing him.
  • David Malter asks his son if he asked Danny if he did it on purpose, and controls his anger but not his passion when Reuven says, "No."
  • If they hadn’t talked about it, how could Reuven be sure? He reminds his son that things haven’t suddenly stopped not being what they seem. He says he doesn’t want to hear anymore hating on Danny Saunders.
  • Then, he gives him a radio, and begins to talk to him about World War II and the state of the world. He warns Reuven not to forget the world while he’s recovering.
  • He’s heard rumors that Europe is about to be invaded.
  • Reuven talks about his homework and his classes, and is shocked when his father says, "No schoolwork, no books, and no newspapers."
  • Reuven can’t believe it. His father reminds him that he has the radio. But Reuven just won’t let the reading thing go. Apparently, he loves to read.
  • David has to leave, because he has to write exams for his students and finish writing an article for a journal.
  • Reuven thinks his father doesn’t look well; he looks small and weak, and he urges his father to take care of himself.
  • Everything is emotionally intense. David has brought Reuven’s prayer book and tefillin, or phylacteries. Check out this link for a detailed description of the tefillin.
  • He gives the items to Reuven and tells him to use them only if the doctor says that it won’t be bad for his eyes or his head, but to pray whether he can use the items or not.
  • Reuven closes his eyes and cries after his father leaves, but fears it will hurt his eye and stops. He starts freaking out, thinking he might go blind like little Billy. His head and his wrist are starting to hurt, too.
  • So, it’s lucky that the nurse comes along with a nice little pill to help this poor kid get some rest. Of course, he falls asleep worrying about going blind, which is only natural when you’re stuck in the eye ward with a poked-up eye.

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