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Characters / The Chosen

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Daniel Saunders

A gifted adolescent and the son of Rebbe Saunders. He is trapped between being The Dutiful Son and following his family dynasty and between going after his own goal of becoming a Psychologist. In the end, he goes his own way.

  • All Psychology Is Freudian: Danny is a big fan of Freudian psychoanalysis, and is pretty miffed that his university courses only focus on behavioral experiments. As far as he's concerned "rats and mazes" has nothing at all to do with the human mind.
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  • The Chains of Commanding: Being designated heir, is not fun.
  • The Dutiful Son: He'd much rather study psychology and other secular sciences, but he attends to his Talmudic studies faithfully to please his father.
  • Princely Young Man: All the synagogue treat him like a prince.
  • Rebbe's Kid: Made more significant by the fact that it's hereditary, meaning he's his father's successor.
  • Reluctant Heir: He wants to be a psychotherapist, but family tradition demands that he be the next Rebbe.
  • Teen Genius: On top of studying 4 times more Talmud than Reuven can on a good day, he voraciously reads science and literature in the library on his off-time. His photographic memory certainly helps. Reuven's dad goes so far as to compare him to Maimonides.
  • Training from Hell: He's been raised in silence, ostentatiously to teach him to look into his own heart instead of looking for other's opinions.
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  • What Beautiful Eyes!: Big blue ones. Reuven rhapsodizes about them.

Reuven Malther

The First-Person Peripheral Narrator. When Danny Saunders hits him in the eye with a baseball, the two of them become unlikely best friends.

  • Academic Athlete: He's the lynchpin the school's baseball team, and brilliant to boot.
  • A Friend in Need: Danny desperately needs someone, anyone he can talk to. Reuven becomes that someone.
  • Jewish and Nerdy: Reads Bertrand Russell for fun. In high school.
  • The Smart Guy: He's a math genius.
  • Supporting Protagonist: Moreso in The Chosen. In The Promise we spend a lot of time with him as he studies for his semicha (rabbinic ordination).


Rebbe Saunders

The heir of a dynasty of Hassidic Rebbes. He is apparently cold towards his oldest son, Daniel, as he expects the boy to carry on the legacy and all the weight that entails.

  • Berserk Button: Zionism really sets him off. Reuven sends him into a vitriolic rant just by mentioning the idea.
  • Rabbi Man: As a Rebbe, he fits this role far better than an Orthodox or Conservative rabbi would.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: His family was slaughtered by Cossacks, during which he himself was mortally wounded and left near death in the cold for half a day. His life was saved by one of his workers, but the process of recovery was torturous. Then his synagogue was burnt down and more than half of the families in his community were killed. And then, after all of that, came the long and harrowing journey to America.
  • Magnetic Hero: He has a mystical charisma about him that is unmistakable. It helped keep his community together when they emigrated during WWI, all at the age of 21. In Danny's words, they would have followed him anywhere.
  • Meddling Parent: Played with. He knows very well what is going on with Danny, but rather than confronting him hopes that his son will tell him of his own free will.
  • No True Scotsman: He refers to advocates of a Jewish State as goyim and apikorsim.note  To a lesser extent, he thinks this of non-Hassdic Jews or, as Danny puts it, Jews who don't wear a caftan and side curls.
  • The Patriarch: The spiritual leader of the local Hassidim, who look up to him with paternal admiration.
  • Tough Love: He genuinely loves Danny; his high standards stem from his belief that Danny will live up to them.
  • Trauma Conga Line: His backstory. The only thing that could have made it worse would have been if he'd himself gone through the Holocaust. Then we find out his missing older brother was murdered in Auschwitz.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: By the end of The Chosen, and throughout The Promise.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: His method of raising Danny, while extreme, is born of legitimate fears that Danny would grow up arrogant and uncompassionate.

David Malter

A Scholar and Zionist activist, his clash of opinions with the Rebbe threatens Danny and Reuven's friendship.

  • The Determinator: Soldiers on through two heart attacks over the course of The Chosen, and is alive and working throughout The Promise with no signs of retiring.
  • Fired Teacher: In The Promise, his liberal attitude toward Biblical commentary and Talmud study get him canned from the yeshiva where he teaches. He gets hired by Abraham Gordon at the end, but it's implied that this has forever put him on the outs with Orthodox scholars.
  • A Friend in Need: At the Library, he assists Danny's 'rebellion' against his father by helping him find good secular books.
  • Gentleman and a Scholar: An excellent biblical scholar, and very kind and polite.
  • Good Parents: He's raising Reuven by himself, and from what we see, he's doing a phenomenal job.
  • Heroic BSoD: The news of Roosevelt's death combined with learning about the Holocaust nearly destroys him.
  • The Mourning After: Downplayed, but he never remarries after the death of Reuven's mother, and the few times he mentions her he makes it clear he loved her deeply.
  • Open-Minded Parent: Especially in contrast to Reb Saunders. He'd prefer Reuven to be a mathematician, but is perfectly okay with him being a rabbi.
  • Patriotic Fervor: For the nascent state of Israel. It nearly kills him, as he collapses from a heart attack (his second) due to his overwork on behalf of Zionist causes.

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