Asher Lev

The protagonist and narrator of the book. The book traces Asher's development as a person and an artist. He is immensely gifted as an artist and, when younger, not in control of himself. He often seems detached from the world around him and generally spaced out. As he grows older, Asher becomes more in touch with himself and learns to channel his feelings into artwork. He is not a typical rebel in the sense that he does not want to rebel. He is simply drawn very strongly to produce art. As he gets older, he outgrows his teacher and becomes more reflective.

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Aryeh Lev

Asher's father. A well respected, highly intelligent man. He is incredibly driven to work hard for the cause in which he believes. He has a strong sense of morality and is deeply committed to his religion. His son's misbehavior deeply disturbs and hurts him. Though he works with high-ranking government officials, he has a hard time relating to those, like Asher, whose value systems are different from his own.

Rivkeh Lev

Asher's mother. She is kind and supportive. Deeply disturbed by the death of her brother, she worries a lot and is, in some ways, a stereotypical "Jewish mother." She is intelligent, loving, and caring; she cares deeply for the two men in her life—Asher and Aryeh—and is troubled by their inability to get along.

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Jacob Kahn

An old and famous artist. When younger, he abandoned the religion with which he grew up, in order to pursue his artwork. He is fully and completely an artist. He is temperamental, and he feels no moral attachments to anything but art and sees a great purpose in producing art and artists. He is blunt, though generally for a didactic purpose.

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Uncle Yitzchok

Asher's uncle with whom he lives while his parents are in Europe. A wealthy, kind man, who has no distinct personality. He appreciates his nephew's talent in his manner as a layman.

Yudel Krinsky

A Ladover man, whom Aryeh Lev helped bring to America from Russia. He seems somewhat withdrawn, affected by years of internment in Siberia. He is patient with Asher, encouraging of his talent, and more tolerant than most in the community.


The man at Asher's school who is in charge of the spiritual development of the students. He is kind and committed to his community. He expresses concern for the well-being of his students and is genuinely interested in their personal development.

Uncle Yaakov

Lev's uncle, who dies when Lev is six years old. His death causes Lev's mother to become ill. He is often referenced by Lev's mother, who seems to carry on a relationship with her memories of him. He often seems to serve as an inspiration for Lev's mother.

Sheindl Rackover

The woman who helps out around the Lev household when Lev's mother is ill. She is often reprimanding Lev for not acting like the Ladover version of a "good" boy. Lev often seems to find his interactions with her annoying and frustrating.

Anna Schaeffer

An international socialite and gallery owner. She is interested in art and artists and even more interested in using them to make money.