Eyes and Vision – Symbols in The Chosen
Potok uses imagery of eyes and eyeglasses to convey the times when a character is faced with a challenge that will result in him seeing the world differently. The image is applied both to Reuven and Danny. In the softball game, Reuven is hit in the eye, and his glasses break. At the symbolic level, this suggests that his old way of seeing the world is going to change. He will never see things in the same way again. And this is exactly what he says when he leaves the hospital after a five-day stay. It is as if he has crossed over into another world: “The world around seemed sharpened now and pulsing with life.” He has made a new, and unlikely, friend in Danny Saunders, and this has opened a previously closed world to him, the world of the Hasidic Jews in his neighborhood. He has also been exposed for the first time to the suffering of others (Mr. Savo, Billy, and Mickey, the patients in the hospital). In other words, his vision of the world has expanded, all as a result of having his eye injured.
The same image is applied several times to Danny as he struggles to free himself from the narrow confines of the world in which he was raised. As he tries to expand his intellectual vision, he reads too much and his eyes get tired, as he explains to Reuven in chapter 11. He even consults a doctor, who tells him there is nothing wrong with his eyes. Later, in chapter 12, Reuven tells him his eyes are bloodshot, and Danny says he will not be surprised if he ends up wearing glasses, which several months later he does. Even after that, his eyes still bother him. This emphasis on the eyes shows that he is having to adjust his vision to accommodate a much larger view of the world than the Hasidism of his father.