Regarding my teacher's assignment on Chaim Potok's The Chosen, I have no idea on what he means by this or how he wants this set up: After completing the remaining pages, go though the entire...

Regarding my teacher's assignment on Chaim Potok's The Chosen, I have no idea on what he means by this or how he wants this set up:

After completing the remaining pages, go though the entire text and pick out seven passages containing the word "world." You do not need to type out your chosen passages; just cite the first few words, use an ellipsis (e.g.,  . . .), then cite the last few, and the page references. Go to an Internet dictionary of your choosing, print out the definitions you find for the word :world," and indicate which meaning fits the contexts of your selected passages. See how many different meanings you can find.

1 Answer | Add Yours

kipling2448's profile pic

kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

This assignment is not as difficult as the professor’s instructions suggest might be the case.  Basically, all he or she is requiring is that the student locate instances throughout the text of Chaim Potok’s novel The Chosen where the word “world” is used, and contemplate distinctions in how it is used in different contexts.  Certain words – and “world” can certainly be one of them – can have different meanings depending upon how they are used.  In Chapter Six, Potok is discussing important differences among the Jewish communities according to each community’s level of religious orthodoxy.  Reform Jews are the most liberal in how they interpret Biblical scripture, and the Hasidic are the most conservative or orthodox.  In between those two are Orthodox and Conservative Jews.  In this chapter, Potok describes the extreme orthodoxy of the Hasidic Jews portrayed in his novel by writing, “Secular literature was forbidden, and the Hasidim lived shut off from the rest of the world.”  Now, what the professor or teacher is suggesting, as a time-saving device, is that, instead of typing out that entire sentence, or the paragraph in which the sentence appears, the student can shorten it by using an ellipsis, or series of dots or periods that replace text and, consequently, space and time.  So, the above sentence from Chapter Six of The Chosen can be written as follows:  “Secular literature . . . rest of the world.” Using the first and last words of the sentence will suffice to provide the professor or teacher context.

Later, in that same chapter, the novel’s narrator, Reuven Malter, describes the previous night’s sleep:  “It was a light, dreamless sleep, a kind of half sleep that refreshes but does not shut off the world completely.”  This sentence can be shortened as follows:  “It was a light . . . sleep [that] . . . does not shut off the world . . .”

Once the required seven passages using the word “world” have been identified, the student is then expected to discuss the different ways in which that word are used throughout the novel.  In Chapter Seventeen, Reuven describes a conversation with his father regarding Danny, when the father sits up and laments, “’Hasidim!’  I heard him mutter almost contemptuously.  ‘Why must they feel the burden of the world is only on their shoulders?’”  In this passage, Reuven’s father uses the word “world” in a commonly-understood context of an amorphous concept involving all living beings.  Hasidim don’t actually have the weight of the world on their shoulders, but the euphemism is intended to convey an emotional feeling of being drowned in everybody’s problems.  Contrast this with the earlier use of the word “world” cited above, in which Hasidic Jews are said to shut themselves off from the rest of the world.  You can’t both expect them to feel the weight of the world on their shoulders while closing themselves off to the rest of the world.  Potok, however, is using “world” in this context in a more confined or narrowly-defined sense.  “World” in this latter usage refers to the immediate society in which the Hasidic Jews live.  Hasidic Jews are very pious and turn their backs on activities that violate the strict wording of the Bible, such as driving one’s car on the Sabbath.  They prefer to live in their own closely-contained neighborhoods shut off to the extent possible from non-Hasidic Jews and gentiles alike.

This is what that professor or teacher is instructing his or her students to do: locate the word “world” in the text of The Chosen and discuss the word’s meaning in each of the seven passages identified.  Three of those seven can involve the ones used in this essay.  Others can be located using electronic word searches of the text in an online or electronic (e.g., Kindle) version.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,912 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question