Chapter 3

Aryeh Lev gets a call early in the week, telling him that Stalin is dying. The news becomes known officially a day later. By the end of the week, Stalin is dead. Asher's parents seem to think that this will bode well for Jews in Russia. Yudel Krinsky, however, tells Asher that Stalin's death will not quell Russian anti-semitism, which is spread far wider than just one man.

Asher's mother tells him that the Rebbe may ask the Lev family to move to Vienna in order for Aryeh to better perform his work. Asher falls ill for a few days and dreams of his Uncle Yitzchok, Krinsky, and his "mythic ancestor." When he finally gets better, he discusses the matter of the move with Yudel Krinsky, his father, and his Uncle Yitzchok, making clear that he does not want to go.

In the midst of a lesson one day, Asher begins to draw—disconnected dots, turning into lines. When the class is done, he gazes down at the page—he had drawn the deceased Stalin, lying in his coffin.

Chapter 4

Asher's father confronts him about his renewed interest in drawing. Asher's mother is more supportive, but explains to Asher that his father is worried about his performance in school.

Asher visits Krinsky and talks about his impending move and desire not to go. He then goes to his Uncle Yitzchok's store and asks if he can live with him, instead of going to Vienna with his parents.

Asher refuses to go with his parents to have passport photos taken. His parents become increasingly frustrated by his refusal to move. His art seems to be one of the main forces driving him to want to stay. His mother asks how he feels when he draws. His father tells Asher that he worries his artistic gift is from the other side.

Passover is particularly difficult for Asher. His uncle tells him he will not let him live with him and that he needs to grow up. He speaks with Krinsky and realizes that when he moves, he will lose him. Everyone seems to be upset at him, and Mrs. Rackover becomes fairly harsh in her terms of criticism.

Asher tells his father that he does not like it that he is away so much. Asher's mother and father talk to Asher about the importance of not leaving work incomplete. This is why Rivkeh is studying at the University and why Aryeh needs to move to Vienna.

One Friday night, Asher awakens from a tumultuous dream and feels the need to look at one of his drawings. He turns on the light, looks at it, and turns the light off again. Only then does he realize that he has violated a prohibition of the Sabbath by turning on the light. Asher agrees to get a passport.


Asher's sickness in this chapter is coupled with an interesting narrative technique. Asher's thoughts are presented as Asher experiences them. Just as he is unsure what he is dreaming and what is really happening, so too is the reader unsure. The jumbled thought and the dream-like state allow what is really on Asher's mind to come out. There is a Freudian element here, as the dream is used as a vehicle to enter Asher's deeper thoughts, to see what is really troubling him. Things that are, or have been, important to him—his uncle, his art, Yudel Krinsky—come out in this sequence. The sickness gives Asher a chance to consolidate his feelings and gives the author an opportunity to present more of Asher's character to the reader.

At the end of the chapter Asher begins to draw again. Drawing is a mode of expression that is important to Asher. When younger, he used it when he did not have any other way to deal with how he was feeling. This chapter has brought about a major change for Asher—the thought that he will be leaving his home town to move to Vienna. Further, Stalin's death is a big deal for the boy so obsessed with Russia. The news has carried with it a severe emotional shock to Asher. He deals with it the only way he knows how, by creating art.

Asher's mother takes a different view toward Asher's drawing then when he was little. At the beginning of the chapter, she comments that one of his drawings is very good, even though she concedes that it is not pretty. In earlier chapters, she had focused more on whether Asher's drawings were "pretty." This shift in attitude demonstrates a development in Asher's mother's character. Her own tragedy, in the loss of her brother, has given her a greater sense of the varieties of experience in the world. She now has the resources to appreciate Asher's need to depict the world in accord with the way he sees it.

Asher's father, on the other hand, still sees Asher's drawings as foolishness. He has not grown closer to his son. As the book develops, this dichotomy is something important to look out for. Asher's mother develops with him and stays relatively closer to him, while Asher's father becomes more and more distant.

Another example of perspective comes up in this chapter. In Asher's defiance of his parents desire to move to Vienna, he creates a hubbub in he community. Of this, however, we see only a few examples. First, Asher's mother, responding to his complaint that no one listens to him, tells him that there would be no problem if no one were listening. In fact, however, everyone is. Second, when Asher goes to visit Krinsky during the intermediate days of Passover, Krinsky tells him that he is a major topic of conversation. As readers, we never see the full-blown arguments and discussions. Instead, we hear only little snippets, like Asher. This major event for the adults in the book, this conversation between them is something that, because we are seeing the world through a child's eyes, we never witness.