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The Chosen | Book 3, Chapter 16 | Summary

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Summary

Reuven Malter's heart turns over at the sound of Danny Saunders's voice. It has been two years since the two last spoke. Danny says simply, "The ban has been lifted." He apologizes. Reuven tells Danny that he needed him when his father was sick.

Reuven asks Danny how he does it, how he withstands the silence; he tells Danny he would lose his mind. Danny says he would get used it. He and his father still don't talk. Reuven tells Danny he thinks Danny's father is crazy and sadistic, and that he doesn't like him at all. Danny tells him evenly that he is entitled to his own opinion.

Danny's eyes still bother him, but his doctor tells him it's due to nervous tension. Reuven helps Danny with his graph.

When Reuven recounts the day's events to his father, David Malter is not surprised; he believes the Zionism debate is over. David asks if Reb Saunders still maintains silence with his son, and when Reuven says yes, his father responds, "What a price to pay for a soul."

Danny and Reuven fall back into their old habits; they walk to and from school together and eat together in the cafeteria daily. Talmud class is a "joy" now that Reuven and Danny are interacting. They dominate the class to such an extent that Rav Gershenson stops them, and with a smile, says that it isn't a "private lesson."

Danny is appreciative and even enjoys experimental psychology. He relays a conversation he had with Professor Nathan Appleman about learning the scientific method; he needs a method of accepting or rejecting a hypothesis. His zeal for Freud has waned a bit; he finds him too "circumspect in his findings." He still considers Freud a genius, but limited. However, he does not want to work with rats, either; he wants to work with people. Professor Appleman has suggested he get his doctorate in clinical psychology so that he can work with people.

Danny's father does not know of his plans. He intends to tell him on the day he gets his smicha, or rabbinic ordination.

Danny asks Reuven what good symbolic logic will do him in the rabbinate, and he answers that the philosophy and theology he is reading may prove helpful. The two boys, men now, are still surprised and delighted by each other.

In June, Danny's sister gets married and Reuven is invited. Danny's sister's husband has an air of superiority about him, a trait Reuven recalls all too well. The wedding is also the first time Reuven sees Reb Saunders in years. He has aged considerably.

In July, Reuven goes to see Reb one morning. He has not been there on Shabbat since he and Danny resumed their relationship, and he is once again studying the Talmud with his father. Reb is hurt that Reuven doesn't come to see him on Shabbat anymore. He asks Reuven to come soon, but then cuts the meeting short as there are people waiting to see him. He says nothing to Reuven about his imposed separation, or Zionism, at all. Reuven leaves, disliking Reb more than ever.

Analysis

The Chosen is a love story, and its reunion scene is in Chapter 16. Reuven Malter is overjoyed at the rebuilding of his friendship, but he is also different. He is more independent emotionally and intellectually. Danny Saunders is more of Reuven's intellectual equal now, rather than the boy genius explaining Freud. The words Chaim Potok chooses—"shiver" and "heart turn over"—are typically used to describe romantic love. What differentiates Potok from many of the Jewish writers of his time is his emphasis on the brain, free of sexuality or the burdens of physical attraction. The Chosen is an intellectual love story, likely entirely platonic. And with Reuven now Danny's intellectual equal, the romance is on more even footing.

David Malter frequently imposes small silences on his son. He starts a sentence and then refuses to finish it or explain it. It happens again in Chapter 16. He says, "What a price to pay for a soul," and then leaves the cryptic statement in the air without explanation. Reuven will hear nothing more from him about it. It foreshadows the climax of the book.

By attending a Hasidic wedding, Reuven has a chance to see the Hasidim during a truly joyous occasion. His takeaway, however, is not joy. Reuven decides immediately that he does not like Danny's sister's husband, that he exhibits the same superiority he suspected Danny of at their initial meeting. It is interesting that over the years, Reuven's understanding of the Hasidim has not necessarily become more nuanced. He does not share his father's appreciation for their devotion to God or each other.

When Reuven goes with Danny to see his father in July, an old man reaches out to reverentially touch Danny's arm. This disgusts Reuven, again concretizing his feelings of disdain for the Hasidic community as a whole. He does not understand the level of deference paid to Danny or Reb Saunders. For Reuven, deference is saved for the thinkers that grace his walls in photographs.

Reuven does not see Reb again that summer. Either he doesn't remember or doesn't care to remember his father explaining that Reb needs Reuven to talk to Danny. He cannot be a conduit if he isn't present. Thus, Danny and his father are precluded from really talking to each other by Reuven's anger.

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