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One of the central themes in this work, which arguably contains many different themes, is that of the conflict between fathers and sons and the necessary coming of age that both fathers and sons go through. This is explored most clearly through the conflict between Danny and his father, Reb Saunders. Reb Saunders is clear that Danny must follow in his footsteps and become a religious leader of the Hasidic Jews. The extent of his fanatacism is actually quite frightening, and the way that Danny is pressurised by his father to follow in his role can be viewed as being quite disturbing. However, by the end of the book, Danny has had to make a break to establish his own identity, and part of that break involves abandoning the outward trappings of his father's faith whilst remaining inwardly a Jew. His decision to go and follow his secular career is one that represents his own coming of age, but also Reb Saunders has to experience a similar coming of age as he has to recognise that he is not able to control his son's life decisions and he has to let him go to live his own life. Note how Reb Saunders makes this realisation at the end of the book:
"Today is the--the Festival of Freedom." There was a soft hint of bitterness in his voice. "Today my Daniel is free... I must go... I am very tired... I must lie down."
At great personal cost to himself, Reb Saunders recognises that he must free his son to embrace and shape his own destiny rather than choose that destiny for his son. This novel thus displays the importance of the coming of age of both father and son, as both realise that the son must be free to make his own decisions in life.
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