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Poems

Thunderstorms
In Flight
Questions
Forced Smiles
Shackles
Recluse
Where
Burn
Winter
Happy Oblivion
Ducking Destiny
Chance of Showers
Chance Encounters
Myopia
The Thinking Dog
Misbehavior
The Race
Flight of the Ostrich
Monster Under My Bed
The Rose Garden
Haiku
Window Shopping
Dramatic Romances
Musings on Nature
A Day at School
The Holy Light
A Rainy Night

Stories

The Roller Coaster
The Purse
Sammy's Lesson
The Legend of the Hungry Dragon
Spirits in the Night

Essays

Essays
My Philosophy of Life
Five Scholarship Questions
Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois
Prophets for God
My Service Project (1999-2000)
My Service Project (1997-1998)
The Beauty of the Forest
Reaching Beyond

Satires
The Pastry Menace
A College Just for You!
The Rights of Plants

Literary Analyses
Saving Harry:  Clearing the Controversy Over Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Essays on Wuthering Heights
The Creature in Frankenstein and the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
Edna's Decision in The Awakening
Character Comparison in Kate Chopin's The Awakening
Why The Chosen?

Research Papers
Race, Norms, and the Sidewalk
Analytical Exercise
The Validity of Comparing Governments
The British System: Legal-Rational Or Traditional?
The Importance of Framing
Madison on Factions
Spirituality and the Brain
Sea Water and Conductivity

Speeches
Clinic Violence: A "Moral" Way to Bring About Change?
Graduation Speech
The Call to Relationship
Mark Twain Speaks Again (original version)
Mark Twain Speaks Again (shortened version)

Editorials
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Year 2000
Hunting for Sport?

Articles
Mercury Spill Exercise
Chocolate Feature Exercise
Character Sketch
Reaction Story
Aspiring Actress Profile
"Shark Attack" Exercise
Villa Maria Academy Hosts Diversity Panel

Nonfiction
Coastal Vacation

Why The Chosen?

Chaim Potok has written a poignant, insightful story in The Chosen. But why The Chosen? Is there something special about the title? As a matter of fact, there are several reasons that this book could have been given this title. Any one of them could be correct, depending on your outlook. There could be more reasons to use this title than I have listed. That is the wonderful thing about a title, and book, like this one: everyone can find their own personal meaning.

First of all, the title could be seen as a general term describing the fact that the people in this book were Jewish, which is important to the story. In the Bible, the Israelites were described as God's Chosen People. It says this in Deuteronomy 7:6: "From all the peoples on the earth he chose you to be his own special people." The four main characters in this book, Reuven Malter, Danny Saunders, Reb Saunders, and Mr. Malter, are all Jewish, who as a people still consider themselves the Chosen Ones. The title, then, could refer to that.

In another interpretation, The Chosen could be referring to Hasidism, the sect of Judaism that the Saunderses belonged to. The word Hasidism means "pious ones." The Hasidim are a group of ultra-Orthodox Jews who arose in eighteenth century, after the Jewish world had been sent into turmoil due to the aftereffects of the Chmielnicki uprising in 1648 and the discovery that Shabbtai Zvi, who had claimed to be the Messiah after the massacres, was a fraud. They believe that their leaders, called tzaddiks, are links between the people and God. They ardently study the Torah and Talmud, which are the first five books of the Bible and a commentary upon them encouraging excellence in Jewish studies, respectively. Their extreme adherence to Jewish laws and traditions lead some of them to believe that they are especially holy, almost a chosen people within the Chosen People. The title of the book could be referring to this, the fact that the Hasidim consider themselves a cut above the rest. The novel may have been called The Chosen out of respect to the "pious ones," around whom and whose ideas the book often revolves.

The title could also be a little commentary on the Hasids. If taken in a sarcastic sense, it could mean that the Hasidim think a bit too highly of themselves, in the author's opinion. This certainly could be what Reuven, the narrator of the book, thought. That attitude was very strong in the beginning of the book during the softball game. Tensions were high, with the Hasid team setting out to, in Danny's words, "kill you apikorsim," and Reuven's team just as intent on winning. Reuven felt hatred for Danny and all the Hasids for their arrogant attitude and, of course, because Danny hit the softball right into his eye, nearly blinding it. There is similar tension later in the novel, when Zionists were attacking the core values of the Jewish religion, at least in the Hasids' strict view, by pushing for a secular Jewish state in Palestine. At this point, Reb Saunders forbids any contact between Reuven, whose father is a Zionist, and Danny, stirring up old bitterness within Reuven. He, at these times at least, would most likely have had a disparaging interpretation of the book's title.

Yet the novel could have been titled The Chosen for another reason. It simply could be referring to all people. It may be symbolic of the struggle within most peoples and groups. It may mean that the human race, as a whole, are the Chosen Ones of God, but none of us, no matter how hard we try to live by religious laws or to just live good lives, ever seem to deserve the title. In this view, the title, when combined with the lessons of the novel, subtly points out the weaknesses and imperfections of humankind. But it still refers to us as the Chosen, indicating that there may be hope for us yet.

At the end of The Chosen, we learn of the great love that Reb Saunders has for his son. This love is what lets him, finally, let Danny go his own way, resolving the main conflict of the book. Maybe that is the hope that the last interpretation is referring to, love for one another, our one redeeming grace. But then, that is only my view. As I said before, this is a book with many different faces.


Copyright © 2002 Colleen Fischer | Last updated October 7, 2002