Themes are an essential part of any novel; they can tell a lot about the book and set up the plot. The Chosen, by Chaim Potok, has many themes, some are hidden and some are very prominent and easy to pick out. The themes that I found in the book are: Choosing vs. Being Chosen, the Conflict Between the Religious and the Secular, and Silence.
The first theme I will talk about is Choosing vs. Being Chosen. Danny and Reuven have a conversation on page 69: I have no choice. Its an inherited position. You mean you wouldnt become a rabbi if you had a choice? I dont think so. This is a huge clue that points to this theme. Another clue that points to this theme is right in the title: The Chosen. The theme is revealed mainly through Danny and Reuvens career choices and the fact that they are trying to decide on whether they should be something that was chosen for them or something they want to be. Danny, who is great at learning the Talmud, is chosen to be the next rabbi in his community but his true desire lies in psychology and Freudian studies. On the other hand, Reuven is a math genius and wants to become a rabbi. Throughout the book they struggle to come to a decision of if they want to choose what they want to do or be chosen to do something they dont really want to do.
Along with the fact that the characters have to struggle with being chosen or choosing, they also have the Conflict between the Religious and the Secular groups of Jews; which is my second theme. On page 10 Reuven is describing the yeshivas that he and Danny attend: Outside of the Williamsburg area, in Crown Heights, I attended the yeshiva in which my father taught. This latter yeshiva was somewhat looked down upon by the students of other Jewish Parochial schools of Brooklyn; it offered more English subjects than the required minimum, and it taught its Jewish subjects in Hebrew rather than Yiddish. Reuvens yeshiva is looked down upon by the Secular Jews because they do dont practice the jewish religion with such austerity. This theme is revealed all through the book; when the baseball game gets super competitive, when Dannys father bans him from seeing Reuven after his fathers speech, and a multitude of times more. This theme is the main conflict in the book and mainly takes place in the relationship between Danny and Reuven; a laid-back Jew and a really strict Hasidic Jew. This conflict also takes place with Danny internally because he must choose whether to be a rabbi, a truly religious task, or a psychologist, a non-religious task.
One of the most prominent themes is the theme of Silence. It is a constant symbol and the most important theme in Dannys life. Silence was ugly, it was black, it leered, it was cancerous, it was death. I hated it, and I hated Reb Saunders for forcing upon me and his son. Reuven stated this on page 220-221 and it portrays his thoughts about the silence between him and Danny after Dannys father bans them from seeing or talking to each other. The silence that Reb Saunders placed upon Danny was meant to make him realize that others felt pain and to give him a strong sense of compassion. Silence is one of the major themes that holds the book together and is an important element to the story.
The themes that I found and chose to discuss are: Choosing vs. Being Chosen, the Conflict Between the Religious and the Secular, and Silence. Most of the themes were very obvious to get out of The Chosen, but I had to dig a little to find proof for the Conflict Between the Religious and the Secular. The most prominent theme and the easiest to choose was Choosing vs. Being Chosen, because it is a huge part of the book and there were so many obvious clues pointing to it. I am now more aware of the theme of the Conflict Between the Religious and the Secular after reading The Chosen, because I didnt really think religious conflict could be such a massive theme.