Overcoming Darkness

February 27, 2019 by Essay Writer

“All the darkness in the world could not put out the light of one small candle.”These words from the headstone of a Jewish holocaust victim perfectly define Chaim Potok’s use of light as a symbol of knowledge and truth in a world of tradition. Potok uses Reuven’s observations of light to give the reader clues of Danny’s awakenings to the truth and knowledge of the outside world in The Chosen. Danny’s surroundings particularly show the lack of acceptance toward society and the feelings of his family, friends and himself toward the outside world. Light also helps demonstrate the growth and maturity Danny gains during the novel. Finally, it also shows his constant struggle with the importance of religion versus knowledge in his life. Danny has a brilliant mind, and finding a way to integrate the supreme emphasis his family places on their hasidic religion with his ravenous hunger for knowledge, is a battle he fights throughout the book. Whether or not he wins this battle is entirely up to the judgement of the reader, but Potok expresses his opinion by using the constant theme of light.Light comes into play primarily while Potok describes the surroundings of the characters. He shows how secluded Danny’s life is by comparing it to the complete opposite lifestyle of Reuven Malter. Reuven enjoys an open and aware childhood, whereas Danny is brought up under the silent lips of his severe father. The Malter home is described as having three wide windows through which sunlight pours. This light ties to the fact that David Malter, Reuven’s father greatly stresses the importance of modern ideas in his son’s life. David Malter is always studying, trying to find new and better ways of doing things. He disagrees with strict obedience to the sometimes-vague laws of the Talmud. Instead he uses his own logic to discover and become an example of the true meaning of this Holy Scripture and it’s commandments. This explains the constant visualization of light the authors uses when in reference to Reuven and David. This light symbolizes the Malter’s openness to the knowledge and philosophies of the outside world. Following the trend, the Malter’s synagogue shows similar characteristics. Unlike others, the Malter’s synagogue is flooded with sunlight, further proving Reuven’s exposure, even through his orthodox religion, to modern society. In comparison, Danny’s street is shaded by protective sycamore trees, which allow for very little light. The windows in his synagogue are carefully curtained with black velvet, deliberately keeping the light out. Instead of natural light, “naked bulbs on dark wires flood the synagogue with harsh light.” The absence of light in Danny’s environment directly contradicts the openness and acceptance of the Malters and proves the sheltered, isolated lifestyle of the Saunders. The ideas of the world are curtained from Danny as literally as the black velvet covering the windows. Danny is raised by strict tradition and blind obedience. For Danny there is no need for light. He is expected to follow directly in the footsteps of his father, finding his own path seems impossible. Danny’s father, Reb Saunders, is a firm believer in following the culture of his ancestors and using the same methods of raising his son. The Saunder’s live by the rigid rules of the Talmud, refuse to make exceptions, and remain perfectly faithful in following the structure of their firm religion. Danny’s family is unwilling to acknowledge the light of the modern world, and strongly discourages Danny’s curiosity toward secular knowledge. Instead they encourage the ancestral custom of Danny becoming tzaddik after his father.As the novel progresses, light fluctuates depending on the circumstances of the characters. Other examples of light prove its use as a symbol of secular knowledge and truth. Because of its diversity, the hospital windows allow plenty of sunshine. It is also appropriate for the library, a center of learning and innovation, to be described as having “huge windows through which sunlight streamed.” On the other hand, Danny’s house is lit by the same sparse light used in the synagogue, closed off to the rest of the world.As Danny Saunders grows and is exposed to life outside of Hasidism, he changes the light within and around him. Thus we see how one small light is able to affect the surrounding darkness. This maturity begins to grow profusely immediately after Reuven meets Danny. Reuven’s first real encounter with Danny is while he is staying in the hospital. He is alerted to Danny’s presence because of the absence of light. Danny blocks the sunlight from the hospital window, foreshadowing Danny’s ignorance of the outside world. The significance of Reuven in Danny’s future is also exposed in this scene. Reuven is irritated at once by Danny’s shadow, and helps him discover the light he has been shadowing. As Danny matures, not only does the light change in him, but he is also able to transform the sparse light of his childhood. The morning Danny and his father break the silence, light has penetrated the protective sycamore trees, indicating that Danny has overcome his upbringing and accepted the outside world into his life. The most poignant example of light in The Chosen is Reuven’s final encounter with Danny. There is a light in Danny’s eyes, which Potok appropriately defines as Œalmost blinding’. The knowledge and understanding of others is such a huge part of Danny that there is light within him for the entire world to see; a light to illuminate the darkness.The symbol of light in The Chosen signifies the acceptance and understanding of the outside world in the lives of a people who live by ancient traditions. They struggle with the balance of present ideas versus primeval commandments. Light shows us Danny’s awakening to the world outside Hasidism, and his battle to find balance and acceptance. The environments of Danny and Reuven emphasize the extreme nature of Danny’s upbringing. This comparison also proves how difficult it was for him in overcoming the expectations of his father so he could use his mind to its full potential. The light of The Chosen shows how an individual can overcome the greatest of trials, and emerge not only victorious, but stronger and wiser. Finding his way through the dark and searching for his place in the world was a grueling battle for Danny Saunders, but by the light of others, and the fire in his heart, he was able to conquer it all.

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