’s The Chosen Essay, Research Paper
Jeremy Leavitt Chaim Potok uses symbolism in The Chosen many different ways. One thing thatis symbolic in his book is the reference to the right and left sides of things. Throughoutthe book this is used to show what the characters are like. First Potok illustrates the pointwhen Reuven’s left eye is cut during the baseball game. It is used again at the hospital. Danny and his father also illustrate the right and left hand symbolism. When Danny hit the ball at Reuven, it hit him in the left eye. When Reuven was inthe hospital strange things happened to him on the elevator. “It looked blurred, and I saw it change color from white to red to black, then back to white.”Reuven must have seen things in a different light without the full use of his left eye, whichexplains why the fluorescent lights in the elevator changed the way they did. WhenReuven woke up in the hospital he could only see through his right eye and the windowshe looked at were blurred. More of the symbolism comes out as Reuven begins to familiarize himself with thesurroundings of the hospital. Reuven met Tony Savo, on the bed to his left. Mr. Savowas a prizefighter, and had been clopped enough to get him to the hospital. Mr. Savo’sright eye had a patch on it. Mr. Savo says that the world is crazy and cockeyed. He tellsReuven to watch out for himself because the world is cockeyed. Because Mr. Savo onlyviews the world through his left eye it appears cockeyed. The symbolism in this shows leftto be worldly and cautious. To Reuven’s right side is Billy. Billy is blind. He is a small, fragile looking boywhich portrays the innocence he has. Because Billy can’t see out of either eye he doesn’tknow of the world and is not affected by it. The symbolism portrayed here shows that theright is associated with innocence and good. When Danny comes to visit Reuven in the hospital, the two of them leave to gotalk in the hall. Danny begins to play with his right earlock using his right hand. Heseemed to be very absorbed in something, then he noticed that he was doing it and he quit. “It’s funny,” he said. “It’s really funny. I have to be a rabbi and don’t want to be one, you don’t have to be a rabbi and do want to be one. It’s a crazy world.” Here Danny is illustrating his desire to learn of the world, but he is restricted because ofhis religious obligations, the right things to do. Danny told Reuven how he studies Talmud and that he has a photographicmemory. He also told Reuven about taking trips to the library in secret to learn aboutpsychology and not anger his father immensely. Danny’s world is completely of the rightside, isolated in his Hasidic community, with the pressures of becoming the next tzaddik. Danny wants to expand his knowledge by studying psychology and other things notassociated with Talmud, or left sided things. When Reuven was let out of the hospital, he was allowed to use his glasses, but hewas not allowed to read. “The world jumped into focus and everything looked suddenly bright and fresh and clean, as it does on an early morning with the sun on the trees, and there was a newness everywhere, a feeling that I had been away a long time in a dark place and was now returning home to sunlight.” Reuven was deprived of the sight in his left eye and couldn’t see the world in the rightlight, he lost the balance necessary to view the world properly. Once out of the hospitalhe could see, but wasn’t able to read, which still shut him off from the world. After beingshut off from the world for a week, Reuven noticed things he hadn’t before. “The hydrangea bush – or snowball bush, as we called it – on our lawn glowed in
the sunlight and I stared at it. I had never really paid attention to it before. Now it seemed suddenly luminous and alive.”This shows how Reuven has realized for himself that the accident had brought about achange in him. When Reuven went to his synagogue he saw his fellow classmates, and he thoughtabout what it would be like to be blind, Reuven couldn’t comprehend it. After the servicesReuven was staring at the sky and noticed the blue. It was the same color as Danny’seyes, which were the same color as the innocent little Billy’s eyes. Danny is beingassociated to the little boy to the right of Reuven in the Hospital. When Reuven went to Danny’s synagogue, Danny’s younger brother sat to hisfather’s left and Danny and Reuven to the right. This may have been because Danny wasnext in line to become tzaddik and his little brother was therefore inferior to him which isthe reason he sat to the left of Reb Saunders and Danny sat to the right. Like the Saunders brothers, When Reuven went to Danny’s house to have Talmudwars he would sit to the left of Reb Saunders and Danny would sit to the right. This issymbolic of how Reb Saunders knows that Danny is favored more and is more religiousthan Reuven, not a Hasid. One day Reuven received a phone call from Billy’s father. Reuven asked him ifBilly’s operation went well and Billy’s father said that it had not. Reuven then asked if hecould visit Billy, and Billy’s dad said that he had moved away. Reuven suddenlyremembered Mr. Savo and the crazy, cockeyed world. Out of Reuven’s left eye he saw afly trapped by a spider on a web. This is symbolic of Billy’s situation. Billy was trappedby his blindness, and when someone attempted to alter his blindness it didn’t work and hemoved away. Just like Billy the fly was trapped and Reuven blew the web away and thefly disappeared. This is also symbolic of Danny’s situation. Danny is trapped by his father and thefact that he will someday have to take over as tzaddik. But when Danny alters hissituation by studying psychology and going to college he disappears as a Hasidic tzaddikand becomes a tzaddik to the world and a follower of the commandments. Also Danny’seyesight grows worse and worse as he studied psychology and the glasses he used hadlittle affect. He may have been going blind, closer to the right like Billy, and not the leftafter all. This symbolism can also help to describe Reb Saunders situation. Reb Saunders istrapped by his son’s brilliant mind. When he tries to change his son by raising him insilence he loses his son. Perhaps Danny lived his life viewing the world through his right eye only and nowhe is beginning to restore the balance so that he can see things in a new light. “Danny nodded, his eyes glowing, luminous.”Danny’s eyes are described exactly the same way as the snowball bush in Reuven’s frontyard. This obviously represents the fact that Danny is now seeing things he had not seenbefore. And he was being seen as never seen before, with no beard or earlocks. In conclusion, Reuven may have been illustrated at the left for more than onereason. The left provides balance for the right, an opposition. Danny was chosen as anopposition to his father and Reuven was chosen as an opposition to them both. Reuven atthe left helped Reb Saunders understand why his son was doing the things he was. Theright represents life devoted to one thing, in Reb Saunders case Talmud, and the leftrepresents the worldly things such as Freud and deductive logic, which includes the rightbut also has a balance. Perhaps this is the major difference between the Hasids and theapikorism. Although they have harsh differences they need each other to survive.