The Chosen: Novel Summary: Chapter 9-10
Dr. Snydman tells Reuven that his eye has healed perfectly. Reuven takes his final exams and looks forward to the summer vacation. He calls Billy's home to inquire after Billy, and Billy's father tells him that the operation was not successful. Billy is permanently blind, and Reuven is upset by this news.
During the first month of the summer, Danny and Reuven are together almost every day. They both still study Talmud with their fathers, and Danny still goes to the public library to read, where he is often joined by Reuven and his father. On Shabbat afternoons, Reuven goes to Danny's house, where he, Danny and Reb Saunders do battle again over the Talmud. Reuven and his father continue to follow the news of the war in Europe, and Danny begins to read Freud in German. He finds it difficult, but he persists, while Reuven continues to read up on his favorite subject, mathematics. Meanwhile, Danny gets frustrated by the difficulty of Freud's work, until he hits on a new idea of approaching it. He now studies Freud like he studies Talmud, going very slowly, sentence by sentence, using a dictionary of psychological terms as an aid, just as he uses a commentary to understand Talmud.
During August, Reuven goes away with his father to stay in their cottage, so he and Danny do not meet. Instead, Reuven gives him two books about contemporary Judaism to read. Reuven returns home the day after Labor Day, and he and Danny meet the next day in the library.
Reuven's discovery that Billy is permanently blind is a reminder to him of the suffering in the world. More important, it is a reminder of the fact of innocent suffering. Reuven recalls what Mr. Savo used to say in the hospital: "Crazy world. Cockeyed." Throughout the novel, Reuven never directly questions his religious faith; he never seems to doubt the wisdom or beneficence of God, and yet in this moment, the suggestion is that he is deeply troubled by the question of why things happen as they do. The clue to Reuven's thoughts lies in the image of the spider and the fly that is described in great detail at the end of the chapter. The spider traps the fly in its web, and the fly struggles to escape. But it cannot do so until Reuven takes pity on it and intervenes by blowing on the web, which frees the fly. What is the point of the extended image? Perhaps in Reuven's mind the helpless fly is like humanity, caught in the web of life, for good or ill, and unable to free itself. It suggests that in this mood of near despair, Reuven is trying to cope with the idea that life may lack sense and meaning.