by Chaim Potok
The Chosen Theme of Memory and the Past
Memory and the past are crucial to Judaism, and Chaim Potok’s The Chosen makes this very clear. The theme is of primary importance in this novel for a variety of reasons. First of all, the story itself is a memory – the narrator is remembering not only his passage from childhood to adulthood, but also World War II and pre-World War II Jewish history. The novel is also a memory of the creation of the state of Israel, and the bitter conflicts occurring before and after the creation. In addition, since several of the characters in this novel are immigrants to the U.S., remembering the past is a way of maintaining cultural identity while in a new country. In fact, one of the key tenets taught to young Jewish students in the U.S. is that if we do not remember the past, we are doomed to repeat it. This is especially important for a people who have suffered great atrocities in the recent and distant past.
Questions About Memory and the Past
- Is this novel memorable? If so, what do you think you will remember about it a year from now? How does that comment on the idea of memory in the novel?
- Do you think Danny’s memory is a gift or a curse, or both?
- Do Reuven and Danny ever talk about Danny's photographic memory? Why do you think that is?
Chew on This
The fact that Danny Saunders, the hero of The Chosen, has a photographic memory serves to underscore the importance of memory in Judaism.