My Name is Asher Lev Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

My Name is Asher Lev Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

The Mythic Ancestor

The Mythic Ancestor that visits Asher in his dreams means much more than just a nightmare. The ancestor is a representation of unconscious thought for Asher, appearing whenever he experiences a major life change. While a manefestation of stories told of his great-great-great grandfather, he is also a reminder to Asher to never forget the past. This helps him connect with his community and history even after he leaves it, and gives him inspiration to create his final piece. 


The earlocks that Asher wears on the sides of his head are a physical representation of his religion. He wears them around his family and community without embarassment, but when he is around Jacob Kahn and the rest of the art world, he is abashed. Kahn berates him for tucking his Payos behind his ears, telling him to either wear them with pride or cut them off. This makes him look visibly different from the other artists around him, which is both a plus and a minus to Asher. His declaration of independence was cutting them off, because he didn't find any significant moral reason to keep wearing his Payos. 

Religious Observance

Religion obviously constitutes a fair amount of this novel, but specific practices play a large part in shaping the world and community around Asher. The payos are part of this, but also play a seperate role. More importantly, religious ceremonies help people bond and are Aryeh's way of keeping his family together. The Rebbe actively encourages Asher's art career and helps him along the way to becoming an artist. 


From America to Austria to Paris, travel constitues a shift in ideas and beliefs. Asher fears travel to Austria because he doesn't want to leave his community and his identity. This makes him have a mental breakdown and truly discover who he is. When his parents took the time to go to Austira together, they were more connected than before. Asher's final trip to Europe helped him manefest into a more complex artist and create his most controversial works. And by being banished from his community, Asher travels back to the place where he made the art that disturbed his family so much, essentially creating a circular cycle of madness. 


Asher and his mother are driven towards what makes them grow as people. Asher's nonexistant desire to finish his final art piece was his moment of conflict–should he betray his community or should he betray himself? The struggle between self-improvement and finishing his work forced him to make the decision of who he wanted to be. His mother also suffered in the same way, when she was put into a depression by the death of her brother. She found comfort in education, and educated herself to the point where she felt that her brother could be proud of her. 

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