The Struggle in Chaim Potok's My Name is Asher Lev

analytical Essay
2200 words
2200 words

"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...

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...ks almost killed him, he survived long enough to paint his "Where do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?", one of his masterpieces. Gaugain also hated the missionaries which came to Tahiti to clean it up and later moved to the Marquesas Islands. These are some examples of struggles famous artists endured for the sake of their art. Life was never easy for these renowned artists but they persevered and in the end it did pay off to them and to the world of art. Although Asher Lev's struggles may seem many, his perseverance did pay off and his art was indeed worth it.

Works Cited and Consulted:

Abramson, Edward A. Chaim Potok. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1986. 2-59.

Merkin, Daphne. "Why Potok is Popular". Contempoary Literary Criticism. Vol. 2. Feb, 1976. 321-322.

Potok, Chaim. My Name is Asher Lev. New York: Fawcett Crest, 1972.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how chaim potok depicts a young boy torn between his orthodox jewish tradition and his passion for art in his best seller my name is asher lev.
  • Analyzes how 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.
  • Analyzes how reb aryeh lev, his father, becomes asher's main antagonist. he is disgusted with his art and becomes bitter about his son’s persistence to prove him wrong.
  • Analyzes how asher struggled with his father, his mother, and his mythic ancestor. the rebbe and the mashpia were his authoritative figures, but he didn't want them to have authority over his life.
  • Analyzes how the relationship between asher's father and mother took a downward turn as they struggled to be good parents.
  • Analyzes how asher struggled with the idea of stalin and how he had the writers killed in russia.
  • Analyzes how asher struggled with school. he was uninterested in his academic classes, received poor grades, and his classmates were cruel to him.
  • Analyzes how asher found little family support for his troubles, which forced him to seek solace in his surroundings. when his father decided to uproot his family to vienna, he fought to prevent that happening.
  • Analyzes how asher struggles to be an artist and an observant jew at the same time. he was firmly admonished by jacob kahn when he started to wear his payos or side curls behind his ears.
  • Analyzes how asher struggles to explain his art to his conservative jewish community. the yeshiva education was inadequate to educate them about art.
  • Analyzes how asher lev struggled with his fame and notoriety, and his family's acceptance to his art. his identity became a factor in his struggle to be an accepted jewish individual.
  • Explains that asher lev struggled with various things to pursue his career, but his art was definitely worth it. if he blocked out his gift, the entire world of art suffers.
  • Explains that any art, fine or applied, requires some sort of sacrifice, such as time, strength, sweat, pain, and blood. many artists risk relationships with their family members and friends.
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