by Chaim Potok
Analysis: Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis
Christopher Booker is a scholar who wrote that every story falls into one of seven basic plot structures: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Shmoop explores which of these structures fits this story like Cinderella’s slipper.
Plot Type : Rebirth
Danny and Reuven’s first meeting doesn’t seem to bode well for their friendship. Reuven thinks Danny is really weird, not only because of the way Danny dresses, but because Danny literally wants to bash Reuven’s head in with a baseball bat, and nearly blinds him. His anger is "the dark power" that Booker describes as threatening the hero. Typical of a Booker hero in this stage, Danny’s anger springs from his feeling "trapped," "isolated," and "imprisoned" by the identity his father imposes on him.
A deeper vision
When Reuven is recovering from his eye injury in the hospital, he begins to learn that things are almost never what they seem. Danny turns out to be a kind, brilliant, and exciting person – and also very lonely. When he and Reuven choose to become friends, Danny begins to feel hope that his hopeless situation will somehow reverse itself. The Reb approves of Danny and Reuven’s friendship, and even lets Danny continue reading non-religious texts. Danny feels his anger, or "dark power," fading in the face of hope and friendship.
Somebody help me – my brain’s too big.
Danny may not have to hide his library visits anymore, but he can’t figure out how to tell his Dad that he’s rejecting his inherited position as Rabbi to his community in favor of a secular career in psychology. He loves his father and his community, but his brilliant mind has needs has needs of its own, which he’ll do anything to satisfy. Danny is imprisoned both by the insatiability of his mind and by his family history.
All alone with nobody to talk to
When World War II ends and the nightmarish news of the Holocaust keeps coming and coming, David Malter and Reb Saunders clash fiercely over the issue of whether or not there should be a Jewish state in Palestine. As a result, the Reb forbids Danny and Reuven to speak, and he steps up the pressure on Danny to prepare to claim his inherited position. Danny is trapped in a nightmare world with no one to turn to for advice on how to get free. In fact, it’s beginning to look more and more like he’ll have to lose his father and his community if he follows his dreams. To make matters worse, his dad won’t even talk to him about what he’s going through.
"There was a light in his eyes that was almost blinding."
In a classic Booker rebirth scenario, a child frees the hero from the chains that bind him. In this case, that doesn’t quite hold true. Reb Saunders actually saves Danny by talking to him again, and by letting him have what he wants – freedom to pursue his dreams without losing the Reb’s love. Yet, children do enter the picture. Danny’s little brother Levi (who we scarcely meet) can take the Reb’s place instead of Danny, and Reuven (who isn’t really a child anymore by the end of the novel) acts as a bridge between Danny and the Reb, which helps them ease back in to communication.