Persecution by the Nazis in Germany before World War II led to the dispersal of European Jews to the United States, Palestine, and other countries. When the full extent of the annihilation ofJews in the gas chambers of Nazi Germany was revealed (six million had been exterminated), a resurgence of interest in establishing a Jewish homeland was ignited. During the 1930s, Jews in Germany began to lose their civil rights and eventually they lost their property and were relocated to the work and death camps that the Nazis established in parts of eastern Europe. Those Jews who left Germany before World War II were the first wave during the middle of the twentieth century to settle outside Europe. After the war, some 200,000 concentration camp survivors came to America. Many of them were Orthodox Jews, and they tended to settle into the type of neighborhood described by Chaim Potok in The Chosen. By the 1950s, the children and . . . Read More
The themes of The Chosen unfold through the friendship of Danny Saunders and Reuven Malter. They first meet in the contest of a baseball game between their rival yeshivas (Jewish religious schools). Reuven is hit in the eye by a baseball that Danny has hit, breaking his glasses and cutting his eye. At the hospital he at first refuses to let Danny apologize, but after his father rebukes him, he relents. Much to his surprise, he finds Danny a compelling personality. Reuven is attracted to his intellectual brilliance and is also fascinated by the differences in their personal and religious upbringing. Potok uses this friendship as the basis for exploring conflict between fathers and sons, a theme which transcends the particular setting of a Brooklyn Orthodox Jewish neighborhood where both boys live. The differences in their religious upbringing is explored in great detail as the two develop their friendship and get to know one . . . Read More
See Mr. David Malter
Appleman Danny Saunder’s experimental psychology professor at Hirsch College is Professor Nathan Appleman. Danny is in conflict with the professor and the content of the class because it is too mathematical and at odds with Freudian psychology. His friend Reuven defends the professor and the methods of experimental psychology.
One of the players on Reuven Malter’s baseball team is Davey Cantor. Davey provides Reuven with information about the fierceness of the Hasidic team they are playing. Davey calls the other team “murderers.”
Mrs. Carpenter is the nurse who is in charge of Reuven, Tony Savo, and Billy Merritt while they are in the hospital.
Mr. Galanter is the coach of Reuven . . . Read More
The Chosen explores the friendship between Jewish Reuven Malter and Hasidic (Jewish Orthodox) Danny Saunders. In Brooklyn during World War II, Danny hits Reuven in the face with a baseball, giving him a concussion. Reuven undergoes an operation to remove a piece of glass from his eye. In the hospital, he meets former boxer Tony Savo and Billy Merrit, a young boy blinded in a car accident. Danny visits Reuven and confides that his father expects him to become a rabbi, though he wants to be a psychologist. He also explains that his father disapproves of apikorsim (Jews who are not extremely orthodox) such as Reuven. Reuven’s father, David Malter, urges Reuven to become friends with Danny because the Talmud (the book of Jewish holy law) says the two things one should acquire in life are a teacher and a close friend. When Danny calls again, the boys talk about religion and reading. Danny regularly visits the library to read books . . . Read More
The central conflict of Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony is Tayo’s struggle to gain psychological wholeness in the face of various traumatic experiences, ranging from a troubled childhood to cultural marginalization and combat experiences during World War. Throughout the novel, the key to Tayo’s psychological recovery is his rediscovery of Native American cultural practices.
Most of the crucial turning points in the novel occurs when Tayo listens to, takes part in, or learns more about Native American cultural traditions. He progresses towards recovery when he visits medicine men, returns to traditional customs and practices, or develops an intimate relationship with someone like Ts’eh who lives according to traditional ways. As he develops an increased understanding of native cultural practices and ritual ceremonies he finds psychological peace, which he quickly loses whenever he seeks other sources of healing-whether he seeks them in the glories . . . Read More
The people of the Anasazi tradition inhabit the area of what is now the Southwestern United States (from Taos, New Mexico, to the Hopi mesas in Arizona). They are named Pueblo, meaning “village Indians” in Spanish. They live in concentrated villages of buildings constructed from adobe local clay, and stone. These buildings are entered from the top floor. The buildings, often reaching to five stories, surround a plaza with a central kiva-a ceremonial place dug into the ground.
Of these people, the western Keres Tribe inhabits Acoma and Laguna. Acoma, perched atop a 400-foot mesa, has been continuously inhabited since at least 1075 AD. Laguna was established more recently. The Pueblo economy centered on a sophisticated system of dry farming and seed cultivation. The matrilineal culture had its labor division: men farmed and performed the ceremonial dances; women made intricate basketry, exquisite pottery, . . . Read More
Silko once explained the Pueblo linguistic theory to an audience (found in Yello Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit) and that theory explains the narrative technique of her novel.
“For those of you accustomed to being taken from point A to point B to point C, this presentation may be somewhat difficult to follow. Pueblo expression resembles something like a spider’s web-with many little threads radiating from the center, crisscrossing one another. As with the web, the structure emerges as it is made, and you must simply listen and trust, as the Pueblo people do, that meaning will be made.”
Not knowing the above theory, critics have lauded Ceremony’s non-chronological narrative. Silko’s purpose in using this technique for her story is to mimic, once again, the zig-zag pattern of the corn dance as well as to stay true to ThoughtWoman. That is, the whole of the novel is a ceremony that . . . Read More
The Pueblo concept of reciprocity did not allow for evil. They believed that because all things were interconnected, they simply had to keep up their end of the bargain. For example, when a hunter takes a deer, he sprinkles cornmeal to the spirits. If the dances and ceremonies are done, the crops will be plentiful.
However, the Pueblos gradually found they needed an explanation for those evils which violated this theory of reciprocity. They did not alter their cosmology by adding a devil. Instead, they attributed evil to witchery or the manipulation of life’s elements to selfish and violent ends. Furthermore, Native American people out of touch with the stories of the people or wanting to replace those stories are the ones that use witchery and, therefore, only Native American medicine and story can undo witchery. One story about witches explains that Native Americans wear the skins of other animals in order to become . . . Read More
As a Christian, Auntie represents a break with the traditional ways and beliefs. In addition, she is a martyr in her own mind. As she says in the novel: “I’ve spent all my life defending this family … It doesn’t bother me but this hurts Grandma so much.” She reminds every member of the family how she has to deal with the gossip about them – especially the talk about Little Sister and Josiah. Due to this concern about what people think of her family, Tayo “knew she wouldn’t send him away to a veteran’s hospital” when she saw that he was sick.
When Tayo returns from war, “Auntie stares at him the way she always had, teaching inside him with her eyes, calling up the past as if it were his future too, as if things would always by the same for him.” She considers him as just another burden in her life-and then reminds everyone about what she had done for him. At the . . . Read More
Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony tells the story of Tayo, a mixed-blood Native American from the Laguna Pueblo reservation who is severely traumatized by his unstable childhood and combat experiences during World War II. As the novel progresses, Tayo attempts to recover from these deep psychological wounds by drawing on various Native American cultural traditions.
His journey toward psychological wellness is made long and difficult, however, because his people’s traditional healing ceremonies must be adapted to cure the new modem illnesses that he suffers from such as alcoholism and the psychological shocks caused by modem warfare. In addition, Silko uses a complex, fragmented, non-linear plot to represent Tayo’s psychological struggles. While this initially makes the story somewhat confusing, the story becomes easier to understand once the reader recognizes how Tayo’s psychological journey structures the novel’s complex development. The . . . Read More