My Name is Asher Lev

  • Study Guide
Summary

Chapter 8

Summary Chapter 8

Jacob then lauds Asher. He tells him he will not be able to teach him much about how to see, but will show him about composition and tension. Asher's work now, he says, has too much love. He will spend five years training Asher and hopes that at the end he "will be ready for Anna." Ana takes her leave and tells Asher that he will one day make himself famous and both of them rich.

Asher tells Jacob that he feels responsible to the Jews. Jacob tells him that as an artist, he is responsible to no one, only to art.

Asher tells Jacob that he will not be able to return the following Sunday because his father will be home for Passover. Asher goes back to Brooklyn. His mother is frantic since no one has heard from his father in a while. He is in Russia, Asher says. Aryeh will not return for Passover; that Sunday, Asher goes back to see Jacob.

Analysis

In Kahn's interactions with Asher, he is constantly emphasizing the ways in which Asher, by beginning to study art formally, is interacting with a different world. In their initial phone conversation, Kahn emphasizes to Asher that he does not keep Kosher. Further, when he asks Asher to read the story of the massacre of the innocents, he emphasizes that it is in "The bible of the goyim." These are just some of the many ways Jacob tries to get Asher to understand the gravity of the difference between the worlds in which they live. Jacob wants to make sure that Asher knows what he is getting himself into.

Kahn constantly tells Asher that he should return to the world he knows, the Hasidic world of Brooklyn. Along the way, we get a hint that Kahn has gone through a torturous process to become an artist, much like the process he expects Asher to undergo. He identifies with Asher and wants to make sure that Asher really wants to be an artist enough to justify the pain he will put himself through. Since Asher has no way of knowing how painful a process becoming an artist will be, cannot know what it will do to his relationship with his family and community, he is not fully equipped to make this decision.

We see how Kahn's motivations play into his interactions with Asher. It is also interesting to consider the author's motivations. By introducing Kahn in an adversarial role, Potok accomplishes two important objectives. First, he gives us a glimpse into Kahn's past, shows us that Kahn came from a religious background and left it in order to be an artist. Second, this is a way for Potok to convey the extent of Asher's commitment to art. As a thirteen-year-old boy, he ought to be frightened by what Anna and Jacob are telling him. Yet, he stays, driven by his need to create art.