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the struggle between art and religion
From a young age, Asher fights against what he is brought up into because he thinks that it opposes his talent. He finds little success in traditional schooling, instead opting for a more artistic future. His father Aryeh Lev, arguably the very essence of traditional religion with his Sabbath ceremonies and strict observance, is the antithesis of his son, Asher.
Asher draws faces in his notebooks of the Rebbe, which is seen as desecration and punishable heavily. He doesn’t even know why he does it, but it is easily a manifestation of his unconscious desires.
The novel poignantly explores how his religion and religious beliefs contrasted with what he found on crosses in Italy. His final piece explores how far he can push this boundary until it breaks, and he deals with the consequences of being ousted from his own religion.
the struggle between the duality of duty and self
Asher’s mother, Rivkeh Lev, encourages his work. She is his inspiration and can be viewed in his latest works. He is also the source of his childhood angst (from when she fell ill). Even though this “separate sphere” mentality still exists within Rivkeh, it is even more pronounced in his father, Aryeh Lev.
Aryeh believes heavily in religion and religious order. He assumes that because the work that he is doing is so pure, his son will want nothing more than to follow in his footsteps. In this way, he is pulled in two directions.
In addition, Rivkeh is also forced to make the decision between nurturing her son’s artistic talents and being faithful in her duty toward her husband.
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