Are Asher's paintings of the Cruxifixion an ultimate act of disrespect towards his parents?
Asher Lev paints against the values of his family and community. He disregards Jewish traditions and observance by pursuing his passion for art. His individuality has him disobeying the Rebbe, the mashphia, his mythic ancestor as well as his parents. Asher does not intend for his artwork to be harmful, but that they convey truths and feelings. Yet, the Brooklyn Crucifixions cause shame for his observant Jewish parents. In that way, he disrespects their teachings and wishes. He challenges the Jewish belief on modesty in creating nude works and disturbs the Hasidic community in his Christian imagery. Worst of all is the reflection of the life-like representation of his family in the paintings. This causes a shocked and angry reaction from the public. The climax evolves towards the last chapter of My Name is Asher Lev, when Asher's parents react hurtingly after the paintings are exposed to them in the New York Museum. Chaim Potok writes their reaction as happening slowly in a step-by-step movement; in silences; building up readers' expectations of a negative outcome.
Guilt and fear of disobedience induces a silence from Asher. "They're not the truth, Papa; but they're not lies either". Asher appears to be speaking in his mind while thinking of the memories that the pictures portray. He disregards his father's lesson on how 'one Jew can cause the rest of the Jews to suffer'. Asher feels his disrespect as a son and justifies himself in his mind, but does not speak to his parents about the Cruxifixion paintings at all. Disrespect for his parents makes Asher scared. He anticipates their disappointment and hurt. Readers sympathize in acknowledging his inner suffering as he struggles to communicate freely with them.
Asher fears his father's reaction more than his mother's reaction for it is his father that disapproves of Asher...
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