My Name is Asher Lev

by: Chaim Potok

Chapter 9

Summary Chapter 9

Asher has a meeting with the Rebbe to discuss his mother's move and his artwork. The Rebbe tells him the move is for the best and warns him to be careful in the world of the "Other Side" into which he is entering. Asher finds out he will one day have his own show in Anna Schaeffer's studio. He wishes his mother farewell and she departs for Europe. Asher moves into his uncle's home.

Analysis

The image of Asher painting without a shirt is another way Potok demonstrates the effects of painting on Asher's relationship with religion. As his uncle tells him, painting in that mode of dress is not strictly in accord with the way a Ladover is expected to conduct himself. His uncle's requirement that he wear his ritual fringes in the house imbues the two places Asher paints with added significance. In Kahn's studio, Asher can paint bareback, freeing himself from anything that might bind him. In his uncle's home, though allowed to paint, Asher is constricted, literally and metaphorically, by the ritual fringes he is forced to wear. Kahn's studio becomes a place free of religion and open to all artistic expression. Brooklyn, bubbling with religious activity however, is not a place where Asher is truly free to create.

The painting Asher tries to make of his mother carries a great significance. As Jacob Kahn tells him, Asher is confused and it shows itself in his painting. Asher's artwork has always given a glimpse into his inner mental life. Here, his artwork makes it clear that he is confused and emotionally in turmoil. There has always been a certain unconscious quality to Asher's painting. He is never quite completely aware of what he is doing. He is not self-consciously painting what he does-his intellectual and emotional development lag far behind his artistic development. This incongruence comes out particularly clearly in this episode. Asher does not know how to deal with his emotions. He both loves his mother and is angry with her for wanting to leave him. He is excited and scared in the face of his potential freedom. He feels betrayed by her, even though he knows she has always supported him. Though an artistic genius, emotionally Asher is very much a teenager. No wonder he cannot resolve his conflicting feelings.

The events at the very end of the chapter may seem, at first glance, disconnected. Asher meets with the Rebbe; he visits Anna Schaeffer's studio and is later told he will have his own show there; his mother packs up and departs for Europe; and he goes to his uncle's house. In these seemingly disjointed happenings however, a theme develops. Asher is growing up and becoming more independent. The Rebbe acknowledges this in deciding that Rivkeh should move to Europe and in his warnings to Asher about the "Other Side." The art world deems that Asher will be soon ready to stand on his own-to have his own show. The protective world of Asher's youth is receding. Asher is to live without his parents for the first time in his life. Further, notice the placement of all of these events right at the end of Book 2. With these developments, Asher closes a chapter in his life and is set for new and different adventures.