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My Name is Asher Lev

  • Study Guide
Summary

Chapters 3–4

Summary Chapters 3–4

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.

Analysis

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.