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The Struggle In Chaim Potok's My Name Is Asher Lev

2406 words - 10 pages

     "If you were a genius in mathematics, I would understand. If you were a genius in writing, I would also understand. If you were a genius in Gemorra, I would certainly understand. But a genius in drawing is foolishness, and I will not let it interfere with our lives. Do you understand me, Asher?" (Potok 136). The struggle begins for young Asher Lev, a talented artist who tries to convince his father and the rest of his family of his artistic ability, when his father refuses to recognize his talent. Set in a tightly knitted Jewish community in Brooklyn, Chaim Potok successfully depicted a young boy torn between his orthodox Jewish tradition and his passion for art in his best seller My Name is Asher Lev. Asher Lev knew from a young age that he was destined to draw. Unfortunately, his friends and family simply discarded his gift as foolishness or mere childishness. His struggles were so great that he became a virtual outcast. The cost of being an artist was so immense as to affect the life of Asher Lev in profound ways.
      In the beginning, Asher's family saw his talent as a hindrance because they fear that he might break the Jewish tradition that included traveling for the Rebbe. As Reb Aryeh Lev's only son, people expected Asher to continue his father's work. When Asher's talent began to emerge, they saw it as a rival to their Jewish tradition. Asher was never interested to travel for the Rebbe. His art was his world and anything outside that world was dust. Therefore, Asher struggled to keep his gift amidst cries of frustration from his family members and friends.

      Reb Aryeh Lev, his father, becomes Asher's main antagonist. Asher's father expressed his disgust by calling Asher's art a waste of time. "A drawing is not foolishness, Papa" (17). As Asher struggles to convince his father that his talent was not foolishness, he realizes that his pleas were falling on deaf ears. Instead of compromising with his son, Aryeh Lev becomes very bitter about his son's persistence to prove him wrong. "Every man is responsible for what he does, because he has a will and by that will he directs his life" (169). Aryeh also felt that his son's gift must have come from the Other Side after witnessing his son's paintings that featured nudes and portraits of Jesus. Their struggle became so great as to strain their relationship to a breaking point. "Listen to me, Asher. This will stop. You will fight it. Or I will force you to return to Vienna with me after the summer. Better you should stay in Vienna and be a little crazy than you should stay in New York and become a goy" ( Potok 169). In the end, Aryeh Lev's futile attempt to stop Asher came out sounding like a threat to his only son.


      His father was not the only authoritative figure Asher struggled with. His mother, Rivkeh, was also extremely weary of his behavior. She would try to talk to Asher but Asher would be so focused...

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