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The Chosen

The Chosen

by Chaim Potok

Analysis: Plot Analysis

Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.

Initial Situation

Baseball and war in the schoolyard

When Reuven Malter and Danny Saunders first meet, it’s hate at first sight. Their friendly Sunday afternoon baseball game has turned into an all-out war.

Conflict

Do you really want to hurt me?

Reuven’s and his teammates soon learn that Danny and his teammates take their baseball very seriously. Body slams, deadly batting, and murderous taunts soon take over the game. Everybody is on edge. When Danny steps up to the plate and hits the ball right into Reuven’s glasses, breaking them, it seems their enmity is sealed.

Complication

I’m sorry I tried to kill you.

Turns out that the two guys actually have a lot in common, and, while Danny really did imagine killing Reuven when he hit that ball, he also expected Reuven to duck. Reuven admits he didn’t duck because he didn’t want to be thought of as a wuss. Their decision to become friends complicates the story because Reuven is now involved in Danny’s complicated dilemma – he’s next in line to become the leader of his Hasidic community, but he wants out. Danny wants to be free to pursue a career in psychology and stay in his father’s good graces.

Climax

A conversation while peeing

When World War II comes to an end and the details of the Holocaust are released, Reuven’s dad devotes himself to promoting a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Danny’s dad is STRONGLY against the idea. After David Malter makes his views public, the Reb forbids Danny to have any more contact with Reuven. Danny has to break the news to his friend in the bathroom at school. When one of his father’s spies walks in while they are talking (and peeing), Danny splits so fast he doesn’t have time to wash his hands.

Suspense

Secrets and silence

When Israel becomes a reality, the Reb calms down and lets the boys hang out again. But, Danny still hasn’t told his father that he’s refusing his inheritance in favor of psychology studies, and everybody is afraid of the fall-out that’s sure to come when he does. Rabbi Saunders still won’t talk to his son about anything other than Talmud, and nobody understands why this is.

Denouement

The silence is broken

Whew. Everything turns out OK. Danny doesn’t have to tell his father – the man guesses Danny’s plans and gives them his stamp of approval. This means a great deal to Danny. Without his father’s approval, he would have to face exile from his community in order to pursue his dreams. The Reb also breaks the horrible silence between him and Danny, opening up his relationship with his son.

Conclusion

Walking off into the future

Danny’s conflict is resolved and he walks off into his new life with fire in his eyes. Reuven, however, is still struggling to understand everything his friend went through. He especially doesn’t understand why the Reb raised Danny the way he did. So, like many great works of art, The Chosen ultimately asks more questions than it answers.

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