Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Brooklyn. Largest of five boroughs of New York City and the setting for the entire novel. The diverse ethnic groups living in Brooklyn’s brownstone row houses include many Jews, such as the novel’s central characters, who live in the borough’s Williamsburg neighborhood.

Malter home

Malter home. Brooklyn home of Reuven Malter, a teenage Orthodox Jew who lives with his widower father, a teacher in a Jewish parochial school and a scholar of Jewish law. The Malters live downstairs in a brownstone house with a tiny yard on Lee Avenue, which is shaded by Sycamore trees; paintings by famous Jewish artists line the walls in their home’s entry hall. Curtained French doors, trimmed with Ionic columns, open into the father’s windowless study, where a yellow desk lamp glows. The senior Malter wears a skullcap and glasses as he sits hunched over a large desk covered by a green blotter and stacks of papers, and writes religious articles. Floor-to-ceiling bookcases line walls of his study, where he and Reuven drink tea and discuss the history of two sects of European Jews. They say prayers and eat the Shabbat meal in the kitchen.

During his recovery from an eye injury in a softball game, Reuven sits on the back porch in a lounge chair and inhales scents of grass and flowers. His room has a bookcase, a narrow bed, a desk covered with papers, and a small radio with a program schedule featuring...

(The entire section is 593 words.)

Historical Context

(Novels for Students)

The Holocaust
Persecution by the Nazis in Germany before World War II led to the dispersal of European Jews to the United...

(The entire section is 799 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The technique of The Chosen is that of the traditional realistic novel. The story is narrated in the first person by one of the...

(The entire section is 220 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The Chosen is in part a novel about the Jewish experience in America in the mid-twentieth century. As such, it deals with the problems...

(The entire section is 357 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Novels for Students)

1940s: Anti-Semitism was widespread in the Western world in spite of the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews.


(The entire section is 318 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Novels for Students)

Research the reasons Orthodox Jews settled in Hebron and how their settlement there has made it difficult for Israel to withdraw from Hebron...

(The entire section is 65 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Among The Chosen's literary precedents is a whole series of novels on the Jewish experience in America. One of the earliest of these,...

(The entire section is 148 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The Promise (1969) is a sequel to The Chosen. In it, Reuven and Danny continue their lives, Reuven getting his smicha or...

(The entire section is 367 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In 1982 a motion picture version of The Chosen was released, with Rod Steiger as Reb Saunders, Maximilian Schell as David Malter,...

(The entire section is 100 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Novels for Students)

The Chosen was adapted for film by Edwin Gordon and featured Rod Steiger as Reb Saunders, Maximilian Schell as David Malter, Robby...

(The entire section is 94 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Novels for Students)

The Promise (1969) is Potok's sequel to The Chosen. In this book, Reuven prepares to become a rabbi but runs into an obstacle...

(The entire section is 196 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Novels for Students)

"Back to the Fold," review in the Times Literary Supplement, March 5, 1970, p. 241.

Dan Barnet, essay...

(The entire section is 949 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Abramson, Edward A. Chaim Potok. Boston: Twayne, 1986. Chapter 2, about The Chosen, discusses the Hasidim and the Orthodox Jewish and non-Jewish worlds, the value of education, fathers and sons, and form and content.

Bluefarb, Sam. “The Head, the Heart and the Conflict of Generations in Chaim Potok’s The Chosen.” College Language Association Journal 14 (June, 1971): 402-409. Explores the father-son relationships.

Leeper, Faye. “What Is in the Name?” The English Journal 59 (January, 1970): 63-64. Offers answers to the question, “Who or what is chosen in this novel?”...

(The entire section is 152 words.)