The Chosen – Chapter 2

Summary: Chapter 2
Mr. Galanter and Reuven arrive at Brooklyn Memorial Hospital.
A young doctor examines Reuven, who is feeling increasingly nauseous
and dizzy. After the doctor realizes that Reuven was wearing glasses
when he was hit, he calls in two more doctors to look at his eye,
including Dr. Snydman, a warm and sympathetic eye expert. After
examining Reuven, Dr. Snydman sends him upstairs to the eye ward.
In the elevator on the way to the ward, Reuven sees flashing lights
and swirling colors, and soon he is unconscious.
Reuven awakes to find himself in the hospital’s
sunlit eye ward. His bed lies between the beds of two other patients.
To his left is a friendly man in his mid-thirties named Tony Savo.
Tony, a professional prizefighter, speaks using boxing metaphors,
referring to Reuven’s head as “the old punching bag” and to his
injury as a “clop.” To Reuven’s right is Billy, a spirited and optimistic
blind boy aged ten or eleven. Billy explains that he lost his sight
in a car accident, but will soon undergo an operation that will
allow him to see again. Reuven tells Tony and Billy to call him
Bobby, since his English name is Robert Malter. While they are talking,
a nurse named Mrs. Carpenter brings dinner, assuring Reuven that
all the food is kosher.
David Malter, Reuven’s father, visits and
informs Reuven that Dr. Snydman has operated on his eye. He assures
Reuven that everything is all right, but Reuven realizes that his
father is not being completely truthful. Finally, Mr. Malter reluctantly
admits that the doctor is worried that, in the process of healing,
scar tissue may grow over the pupil, blinding Reuven’s left eye.
He also tells Reuven that Reb Saunders has been calling him to ask
about Reuven’s condition. Reuven grows angry and argues that Danny intentionally
hit him. He also tells his father that Danny called him an apikorsim.
David Malter is shocked by Reuven’s accusations and remains critical
of them.
Mr. Malter informs Reuven that he cannot read at all
until his eye has healed. He gives Reuven a portable radio, instructing
him to remain aware of news of the War. He also brings Reuven his
tefillin and prayer book. Throughout the conversation, David Malter looks
sickly. Reuven, upset to see his father looking so tired and unkempt,
reminds his father to take care of his own health. David Malter
leaves, and Reuven falls asleep thinking about Billy, wondering
what it is like to be blind.
Analysis: Chapter 2
Reuven’s traumatic eye injury underscores the
importance and fragility of the eyes, an important means of connection
to the world around us. In his closing words of Chapter 2,
Reuven says he can’t imagine what it would be like to be blind and
not notice any difference when opening his eyes, to find “everything
… still dark.” Reuven’s comment alludes to the beginning of Genesis, the
first book of the Old Testament: “In the beginning when God created
the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness
covered the face of the deep. . . . Then God said, ‘Let there be
light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good;
and God separated the light from the darkness” (Gen. 1:1–4).
The Bible equates darkness with hopelessness, with a world without
God. For Reuven, blindness would also be hopeless because he loves
to read, and because reading is an important part of both prayer
and learning. Reuven fears that without his eyesight, he will be
closed off from the world of ideas, the world of his friends and
family, and the world of God.
At the same time, the fragility of Reuven’s vision and
of the healing process implies that one’s way of seeing the world
can be altered. Reuven’s eye injury foreshadows the coming radical
change to his opinion of Danny. Just as Reuven’s eye heals and he
learns to see again, so too does he eventually learn to see Danny—and
the whole world—differently. In this chapter, vision operates on
two levels. It is a physical ability that enables learning, prayer,
and interaction with others, but it also represents the more abstract
act of seeing and judging others. Both these aspects of vision are
connected to one another, and both are important to understanding
the novel.
When Reuven’s father visits, we see that his and Reuven’s
relationship is one of love, respect, and mutual concern. They worry about
each other’s health and discuss their feeling with ease, and they
share a strong devotion to religion. For example, David brings tefillin
and prayer books to the hospital, so his son can stay devoted to
his faith. At the same time, David Malter stresses Reuven’s obligation
to care about the outside world as strongly as he cares about religion
by bringing Reuven a radio and telling him that being hospitalized
shouldn’t mean being shut off from the world.