The Historical and Political Context of the novel "The Chosen" by Chaim Potok

Essay by mikman52College, UndergraduateA+, December 2004

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The Historical and Political Context of "The Chosen"

"The Chosen" is a novel written by Chaim Potok. This novel takes place in Brooklyn around the time of World War II, and is centered around the characters Reuven Malter and Danny Saunders, both Jewish teenage boys. Reuven is an Orthodox Jew, while Danny is a Hasidic Jew. Throughout the book, a strong friendship develops between these two boys, despite their contrasting cultures. There is a common theme throughout the book where religious Judaism and tradition is contrasted against the broader secular world and modernity. World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Death, the Holocaust, Zionism, and the formation of the State of Israel represent the culture of the modern secular world that collides with the religious culture of Reuven and especially Danny. In Hasidism, faith is traditionally not to be diluted by worldly concerns; however, the events that are happening in the world around Danny are so important that they have a very large impact on his faith and life.

The historical and political context of "The Chosen" is a very important aspect of the novel because it broadens the scope of the story by bringing the story out beyond just Jewish culture and tradition.

World War II plays an extremely important part in the story, especially in the first third of the book. Many Jews are obviously concerned by the war in Europe because Hasidism is strongly rooted in parts of Europe. Reb Saunders and his group of Hasidim that followed him from Europe are especially concerned, having grown up where the war is taking place. Because of World War II, American Jews are trying to prove to the rest of America that Jewish teenagers are just as "American" as other American teenagers. In the movie version of "The...