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The Chosen | Book 1, Chapter 2 | Summary

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Summary

Mr. Galanter takes Reuven Malter to the hospital. Reuven is in terrible pain; his head, his eye, and his wrist all hurt. He is examined by some doctors. Worried, they call Dr. Snydman, a renowned eye surgeon. Dr. Snydman affirms there is glass in Reuven's eye. Mr. Galanter calls Reuven's father, David Malter.

As he is taken upstairs to the eye ward on a stretcher, Reuven asks, "How do they get the light to change colors like that?" Mr. Galanter says, "Jesus," and for the first time, Reuven realizes how serious his situation is.

Reuven wakes up bandaged and no longer in pain, and meets the people in the neighboring hospital beds. Tony Savo is a former prizefighter who got a "clop" to his head, and Billy Merrit is a little boy who lost his sight in a car accident that also killed his mother. Reuven tells them his name is Robert, because Reuven is a difficult name for them to understand.

It is mealtime and Reuven realizes he is very hungry. He has a message from his father that he should eat everything because it is a kosher hospital. He asks Tony Savo what day it is and realizes he has been asleep for over a day.

David Malter comes to visit and tells Reuven about his surgery; he had a shard of glass in his eye that cut his pupil. Reuven realizes that scar tissue may grow over the surgical site, leaving him blind in that eye. David has a terrible cold and is weak and worried about his son. He is surprised when Reuven tells him that Danny Saunders hit him deliberately, because Reb Saunders, Danny's father, has called to apologize and said that Danny feels terrible.

David gives Reuven his tefillin and prayer book to pray, as well as a radio to keep him company. Reuven is forbidden to read.

David goes home to prepare his lessons and an article he is writing about the Talmud. As he leaves, he affectionately calls Reuven, "my baseball player."

Analysis

Reuven Malter's father is very affectionate and loving toward Reuven Malter, as well as fair-minded. His irritation at Reuven's assertion that Danny Saunders hit him on purpose is proof of his even-handedness. He is ill, and Reuven is concerned about him, setting up a dynamic that will continue through the novel.

David Malter calls the radio he brings Reuven a blessing, for "anything that brought the world together he called a blessing." This is in stark contrast to the insular world of the Hasidim and their dependence on one man for interpretation of the news.

The hospital is the only place in the novel in which Reuven has any reported interaction with people outside of his own Jewish bubble in Williamsburg. While he may listen to the radio and keep up with news of the war, in many ways he is isolated from the outside world as much as Danny Saunders. His interaction with people different than himself is not marked by superiority or condescension. Reuven, changing his name to Robert for the comfort of Tony Savo and Billy Merrit, makes it a little easier for them to understand him. He is unfailingly polite to the people around him, in contrast to the disdainful young rabbi and the curse-shouting softball team.

When David Malter calls his son, "my baseball player," he is doing so affectionately. He understands both the need to play and the incredible freedoms Reuven has by virtue of being American. While Chaim Potok disagrees that The Chosen is an "American" novel, there are a number of references throughout the text on the limitless nature of what is available to read and study in America—even baseball. David Malter is an immigrant from Russia, and it is likely that his understanding of the game is linked entirely to his son.

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