Literature Study GuidesThe ChosenBook 1 Chapter 3 Summary

The Chosen | Study Guide

Chaim Potok

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The Chosen | Book 1, Chapter 3 | Summary

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Summary

It is D-day and there is excitement in the hospital. U.S. and allied forces are landing in Normandy, France. Reuven Malter and his neighbors in the ward listen to the radio. The hospital nurse, Mrs. Carpenter, who is as Tony describes her, "tough as a ring post," allows Reuven to get up and pray with his tefillin. Reuven can't read, so he prays by heart, mostly for his neighbors in the hospital and the American and allied soldiers in the war.

Mickey, a little boy who has been in the hospital for most of his life, begs Tony Savo for a catch. Mr. Savo plays with him, stretching his arm to catch the ball. Mrs. Carpenter quickly shuts the game down, and Mr. Savo, exhausted, goes to sleep.

Mr. Galanter comes to visit, and Billy Merrit asks him why he isn't in the war, making him visibly uncomfortable. Billy's uncle is a fighter pilot and Billy is very proud of him. All of the excitement of the news and the visits exhaust Reuven, and he falls asleep.

Reuven wakes up to Danny Saunders sitting by his bed. Danny apologizes but Reuven is angry. He asks him how it feels to blind someone and tells him to go home. Later when Reuven's father visits, he is angered at Reuven's treatment of Danny. David Malter tells his son, "If a person comes to apologize for having hurt you, you must listen and forgive him." Reuven feels terribly guilty.

Billy's father tells Reuven that he appreciates Reuven's kindness toward his son. Reuven agrees to call Billy when he is out of the hospital.

The next morning Reuven is allowed to walk around but is becoming increasingly frustrated by not being able to read. He is getting sick of the radio as well. Danny comes back to the hospital, and Reuven is surprised by how happy he is to see him. Reuven apologizes for his behavior the day before. The two boys talk. Danny admits to having wanted to kill Reuven at the game. Danny doesn't understand his impulse but would like to understand it. He thinks talking to Reuven might help. Reuven asks him to stop calling him "Malter," and the two boys—now on a first-name basis—begin the conversations that will begin their friendship.

Danny reveals to Reuven that he studies two blatt (or four pages) of Talmud a day. It is unimaginable to Reuven, who is taught to read deeply rather than broadly. Reuven is surprised that Danny does not want to become a rabbi but a psychologist. However, Danny has little choice in his future, as tzaddik is an inherited position. Reuven wants to become a rabbi, much to Danny's surprise, although his father would like him to become a mathematician at a university.

Danny tells Reuven that in order to convince his father to allow a baseball team from the yeshiva, he had to convince him that they needed to beat the "apikorsim" at what they are best at. Reuven realizes that Danny's relationship with his father, Reb Saunders, precludes losing to a team of more secular Jews.

Reuven asks about the young rabbi on the bench, assuming he was reading something written by Danny's father. Danny says his father doesn't write at all; he believes that "words distort what a person really feels in his heart." Danny admits to Reuven that his father does not speak to him unless they are studying the Talmud.

Danny and Reuven make plans for Danny to visit the next day.

Analysis

The introduction of D day into the narrative firmly grounds the novel in a specific time and place. Although Reuven Malter mentions that baseball has become particularly important in the context of World War II, it is the landing in Normandy that pinpoints the moment in time in which the plot unfolds.

Danny Saunders's relationship with his father is at the center of this chapter. When David Malter leaves the hospital and kisses his son on the forehead, it is evident that there is a warmth and a generosity in the relationship he and Reuven share. In Chapter 3, Reuven shares with his father that Danny had visited, and his father suggests that his behavior was in need of correction. There is a sense that Reuven respects his father; he listens and takes his words to heart. There is no sense, however, that Reuven is frightened of his father. He does not suffer his father's approbation.

Danny, in just a few sentences, reveals that his relationship with his father is largely based on fear. He does not want to imagine what his father's reaction would be if he and his team lost a baseball game to the "apikorsim." Danny and his father do not talk. Danny says his father "wishes everyone could talk in silence." Reuven is puzzled by this, as is Danny, but Danny accepts it. The silence of the relationship is in clear contrast to the ongoing dialogue that marks Reuven's relationship with his father.

Tony Savo, a man kind to Reuven, does not have any visitors. He is willing to play with Mickey, even though it exhausts him; he is unpolished but humane. His use of vernacular English and his lack of visitors are a contrast to Reuven's exaggerated politeness, piety, and stream of visitors. Savo seems a good man and yet does not have a community gathering around him. It is ambiguous whether this is because of choices he made or because it just is. Billy Merrit and his father are also seemingly lovely people, dealing with an incredibly difficult situation. Their presence has at least two meanings; they serve as reminder to Reuven that he has a place both in a small community and in a wider world; they also remind Reuven that inexplicably bad things happen to apparently good people. As the book progresses and more is learned about the destruction of European Jewry, the desire to give meaning to an otherwise inexplicable tragedy becomes a recurring idea.

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