Comparing Minorities as Portrayed in My Name is Asher Lev, Joy Luck Club, and Black Like Me

Satisfactory Essays
Minorities in America as Portrayed in My Name is Asher Lev, Joy Luck Club, and Black Like Me

Conflicting values are a constant issue in society. In diverse civilizations minorities become out ruled by the majority. In Twentieth Century American culture there are many difficulties in existing as a minority. The books My Name is Asher Lev, by Chaim Potok, and the Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan, portray the aspect of being torn between two cultures as a conflict for today's minorities. Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin, examines the hardships for a minority by progressively revealing them. The events of the three authors' lives reflect how they portray the common theme of the difficulties for a Twentieth Century minority.

My Name is Asher Lev demonstrates that the aspect of the protagonist being torn between two cultures is a difficulty for minorities in America. Asher Lev was torn between being an artist and his Jewish community. In the novel, Potok describes in detail the "feelings, dilemmas and questions [minorities] bump into while trying to obey their traditions and their passions at the same time" (Chaim). The main character, Asher Lev, chooses to be an artist and winds up having to separate himself from his life. He explains, "I am a traitor, an apostate, a self-hater, an inflicter of shame upon my family, my friends, my people; also I am a mocker of ideas sacred to Christians" (Potok 1). By choosing the life of an artist, Asher faces a life of continuous pain due to betrayal to his family. The protagonist's painting of the Brooklyn Crucifixion "raises disturbing questions about anti-Semitism, conflict between Christians and Jews, and the tension between artistic conventions and religious imperatives" (My Name is Asher Lev 2877). It contradicted everything his family had raised him to believe in. He never fits into society since he defies his people and mocks the majority in this painting. Asher describes how his double culture life is doomed. "Asher Lev . . . was the child of the Master of the Universe and the Other Side. Asher Lev paints good pictures and hurts people he loves" (Potok 348). Asher moves from the religious to the secular world in the course of the novel. This is because Potok's novels "assume the impossibility of existing in both the religious and secular spheres" ("Potok, Chaim" 339).
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