Although Potok is a traditional writer who believes in the primacy of plot, some of his characters seem to stand more for views that Potok wants to put forth than as people integral to the storyline. This is especially true of Channah and Michael Chandal, who seem most substantial when they are espousing the primacy of human rights and their commitment to Communism as a means to create an international community. As characters, however, they tend to blend into the background in the novel.
The same kind of one-dimensionality is suggested by Sarah Chandal and Ezra Dinn. Although the actions of both are important to the story line, their primary usefulness—especially Dinn’s—seems to be as spokespeople for the Christian and Orthodox perspectives that Potok wants to detail. The characters of Ruthie Helfman and David Dinn also serve to present religious information, but because they are in closer contact with the day-to-day musings of Davita—the most fully developed character in the novel—they seem more real somehow.
Davita is the character on whom the novel rests. Her acute perceptions carry the reader along as she tries to make sense of the world around her and as she comes to rely more and more on what she finds within. In the first chapter, the reader learns that Davita is telling the story as she looks back in time. This at least partially accounts for her ways of thinking and speaking, for Davita’s perceptions in the novel are not...
(The entire section is 485 words.)