My Name is Asher Lev

Summary

Chapter 5

Summary Chapter 5

Analysis

Asher's trip to the doctor at the beginning of the chapter brings up two recurrent themes of the book. First, Asher writes that the Doctor told him it would be good for his soul to visit the museum. Then, Asher tells us that the doctor substituted the Hebrew word, neshomoh for soul. This highlights the different languages spoken by Asher as he is writing the book, and the world in which he grew up. Second, this reinforces how pervasively Jewish Asher's early Ladover world was. Everyone with whom he interacts, even his doctor, speak the language of his Jewish community.

The drawing of the Rebbe that Asher makes in his Chumash is laden with symbolism. First, the Chumash and the Rebbe are two of the most important elements of the Ladover world. The Chumash, the Torah, is its most important book, and the Rebbe is its most important leader. Asher takes these two and puts them together in a way that desecrates both. Symbolically, his art is attacking his Jewish world. The incident itself shows how attached Asher is to his artwork and the hold that art has over him. It is as if art is the most natural thing for him to do and he does it unconsciously, without trying. Finally, the picture provides a glimpse into Asher's unconscious. Asher is unhappy with the Rebbe for asking his father to move to Vienna. In demonizing the Rebbe through art, Asher expresses his anger.

The pictures that Asher draws for the Mashpia leave him with a feeling of self- contempt. He has drawn the world the way he thinks the mashpia wants to see it. It is a world filled with happiness and positive portrayals of Ladover life. This is the world his mother implored him to paint when he was younger. He has never seen the world through such false lenses. Depicting the world in this way, and worse, using his gift to create lies, is perhaps the most troubling thing Asher could do to himself.

Notice that Asher is much happier with the picture he unconsciously drew in class, then with those he purposely drew in the mashpia's office. This shows us how confused Asher is at this stage in his life. He has not yet learned to be comfortable with his gift and his self, to full channel his feelings into his artwork.

Asher's continual late returns home are a way of showing how distant from the world around him he is becoming. He is completely wrapped up in himself and, so, unaware of what he is doing, when he is doing it, and that it has an effect on those who love him.

Asher's theft is another significant expression of his passion for art. In order to experiment artistically, he is driven to steal. He is, however, not without remorse. In order to assuage a guilty conscience, Asher buys a canvas board.