Throughout our lives, we are given choices to make. Whether these choices involve the people we will spend our time with, how much effort we will put into our work, or even the places we ll choose to go, they are for the most part up to each individual. In The Chosen by Chaim Potok, these kinds of choices are not up to each person, but rather up to the father of a very strict family of Jews.
After Reuven Malter returned home from the hospital, Danny came to visit and apologize for hitting him in the face with a baseball. At first, the conversation between the two was not very pleasant, but changed dramatically when they both discovered each others more admirable qualities. When Danny decided that Reuven was the kind of person that he would like to be friends with, he first had to consult with his father about the relationship.
He wants to meet you. I told him we were friends. He always has to approve of my friends. Especially if they re outside the fold. (111)
After spending an entire night with Danny and his father, Reuven was finally chosen by Reb Saunders as a suitable friend for Danny. In a sense, the entire process was a selection. Danny had no choice in who he could spend his time with, but instead relied on his father to decide who was the chosen and who was not.
Just as Reb Saunders chose Danny s companions, he also played a large part in choosing his future college and occupation. Danny had been chosen by his father to be his successor as a tzaddik in the Jewish community. He was in a sense, the Frankenstein of Reb Saunders ; who was created to follow in the footsteps of his father. Similar to Frankenstein though, Danny s interests were not that of his creator. He wished to thrive on new knowledge or anything else he could get his hands on. As an early teenager, Danny loved to go to the library and discover new ideas, worlds, and adventures within various books.
This is not Europe. It is an open world here. Here there are libraries and books and schools. I knew already when he was a boy that I could not prevent his mind from going to the world for knowledge. (266)
Although Reb Saunders would have preferred a more sheltered life for Danny, it was out of his power to stop him from simply reading books. It soon became apparent through college letters and continuing interest in things other than the Talmud, that Danny s father realized his chosen would not live according to his expectations.
It is apparent that throughout the novel, Danny does not want to be a tzaddik,
but instead would like his brother to take his place. This idea is not new to the memories of Reb Saunders, whose brother also challenged the title of the chosen . Reb Saunder s brother was, like Danny, a brilliant man, and his purpose in life was obviously not to become a tzaddik. He and Danny had similar thoughts and actions throughout their lives, bringing them to the conclusion that they would not allow someone else to choose their destiny.
Before Danny made his final decision to not continue the tzaddik tradition, his thoughts were in total disarray as to what he wanted to do with his life. This is evident through a detailed passage at the end of chapter nine when Reuven witnesses a fly trapped in a spider s web.
A spider had spun a web across the corner of the upper rail, and there was a housefly trapped in it now, its wings spread-eagled, glued to the strands of the web, its legs flaying the air frantically . I rose from the chair and went over to the web . I bent and blew hard against the web. It swayed but remained intact. I blew again, harder now, and the strands seemed to suddenly melt. The fly fell on its back to the wooden floor of the porch, righted itself, then flew off, buzzing loudly. The spider tumbled from the broken web . Then swiftly climbed the strand, scrambled across the top front rail of the porch and disappeared. (165)
This event, though small in length, goes into the main theme of being the chosen within the story. Danny was caught up in a tangled life just as the fly was. Everyone and everything seemed to be telling him to stay in the confines of the family s Hasidic beliefs. His father, like the spider, was the creator of Danny s enclosed lifestyle and did not want to let him spread his wings free like the fly. Although he thought he could keep Danny within those barriers, he did not expect an outside source such as Reuven to help him discover a more satisfying life than being simply, the chosen . When the restrictions of Danny s old lifestyle collapsed as the web did, he flew free and Reb Saunders ran away, scared and worried. This, as you can see, is exactly what happened within the novel.
In the course of a lifetime, a person gets a chance to make some important decisions that may change the outcome of his or her life. In this case, Danny chose not to be a choice of his father. Luckily, Reb Saunders, saw the motivation behind his son s actions and realized that, unlike his brother, Danny had developed a soul that would thrive upon both love for the Master of the Universe and the Universe itself.