by Chaim Potok
Windows on the World
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
In a book that celebrates choice and multiple perspectives, it’s no wonder that vision is a big deal. When the narrator gets his glasses broken before the end of Chapter One, we know he’s in for a vision adjustment. Our hero, Danny Saunders opens Reuven’s eyes in a big way. Think of Danny as Reuven’s new glasses. Through Danny, Reuven sees the world in a new way, and lets Danny completely take over his story. Billy’s blindness, Tony’s loss of an eye, Danny’s eyes failing – these work with Reuven’s vision situation to make us see how much we don’t see, and remind us of vision’s preciousness and frailty. Vision is constantly being shattered and repaired in the novel.
Yet, some things are beyond repair. The early vision problems in the novel foreshadow the horrific vision that occurs later. When the U.S. bombs Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the truly unimaginable takes place and scorches the characters’ visions forever. The end of World War II brings forth all sorts of information. What once remained partially hidden – the details of the Holocaust – comes to public view, intensifying the vivid and extreme vision changes the characters undergo.