My Name is Asher Lev

by: Chaim Potok

Chapter 11

Asher's family mounts increasing pressure on him to move to Vienna. He relents. Jacob tells him that he needs to learn to think and act for himself. Asher gets sick in Vienna and is sent back home. He spends the rest of the summer with his uncle and then with Kahn in Provincetown.

The registrar of Asher's High School and the Rebbe's assistant both tell Asher he will study Russian in college. He refuses. The Rebbe speaks with him personally and tells him it might one day help him to travel to Russia to see art. He assents.

Asher visit's Anna's gallery with Kahn. She tells him that he will have a show in the spring. Yudel Krinsky, his Uncle, and his Mother are happy and proud. Kahn insists that Asher show his paintings of nudes. The show is a moderate success. The Rebbe's assistant comes, but leaves after seeing what is there.

Asher's parents decide not to return that summer and he spends the summer in Provincetown. His next show is the following spring. The following summer, Rivkeh and Aryeh return to Brooklyn.

Analysis

The Rebbe's power rears its head again at the beginning of this chapter. He decides that Asher should learn French and that is the end of it. The registrar enforces this decision at the High School and Asher accepts it. Interestingly, the Rebbe informs Asher of his decision, not by telling him, but by letting the Registrar tell him when he inquires as to why he is scheduled to take French. This is the way the Rebbe operates. When he decided that Asher should learn with Jacob Kahn, a similar event transpired. Rather than directly informing Asher of his decision, the Rebbe invited Kahn to his office the same night Asher came to speak with him and had Kahn approach Asher after his meeting with the Rebbe. In orchestrating these ways of delivering his decisions, the Rebbe creates an aura of inaccessibility about him. The aura also helps him seem as a more powerful leader, as he is able to control a veritable army of men to deliver his messages.

When Asher goes to Vienna, he becomes ill. In describing the scene, Potok does not simply rely on saying that Asher is ill, though. He uses language very carefully in writing this section in order to convey Asher's illness.