One of my favorite episodes from Season 6 of Lost was “Dr. Linus,” which was the first one that made me care about what was happening in the mirror reality for its own sake. Any episode that centers on Benjamin Linus is going to be intriguing, and happily it included another novel for the Lost Book Club: The Chosen by Chaim Potok.
Right up front, I found the book an ironic prop in the show since its title seemed a direct affront to Ben, who despite years of service and loyalty to Jacob and the island doesn’t appear (at least as of this writing) to a “candidate” to replace Jacob. Despite his tireless efforts on Jacob’s behalf, Ben Linus is not the chosen, and it was in “Dr. Linus” that he had to finally come to terms with that fact.
The book itself is remarkably compelling. It’s a simple story, really, but it’s gripping in the depths of understanding and compassion Potok has for his characters. Potok’s story examines the friendship between two teenage boys from very different Jewish families in 1940’s Brooklyn. Danny Saunders is a brilliant young man from a Hasidic family. He has a photographic memory, and when he isn’t studying Talmud with his father, he immerses himself in “forbidden” knowledge: Darwin, Freud, Einstein. He forms an unlikely friendship with the novel’s narrator Reuven Malter, a modern Orthodox Jew who would like to become a Rabbi despite his father’s hopes that he will become a mathematics professor.
Driving much of the plot is Danny’s relationship with his father, the leader of their sect. Their relationship is one of silence. The only times they talk are when they debate issues of Jewish law. Danny wants nothing more than to speak with his father, but his father has made a decision to raise his son in silence so he will learn compassion to balance his intellect.
That silence should resonate with anyone who has been watching Lost. Ben’s greatest frustration with Jacob—and ultimately why he killed him—was the silence Ben got from Jacob. He never once communicated with him except through Richard, and when Locke appeared to be talking with Jacob in Season 3, Ben was thunderstruck and angry.
So why did Jacob treat Ben with silence? Was he attempting to teach Ben something… is Ben the chosen one after all? The silence led through Jacob’s death to Ben’s redemption. Perhaps that is what Jacob saw all along.
For more of my Lost theorizing and attempted analysis of the books that have appeared in the show check out the Lost Book Club index page.
Next up: Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.