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

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"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.