My Name Is Asher Lev
Asher Lev Essay: Minor characters are central to our understanding of any text. Analyse their significance in My Name Is Asher Lev.
Central to our understanding of “My name is Asher Lev” by Chaim Potok, is the dynamics of Asher’s relationship with different minor characters involved. Each minor character such as Yudel Krinsky, Uncle Yitzchok, the Rebbe, and Jacob Kahn each help Asher in a different way allowing the reader to interpret the text more thoroughly. Their guidance to the antagonist creates a vivid image inside the reader’s mind of the type of character and their importance to our understanding of the text. Each minor character listed has a deep impact on the resolution of Asher Lev
Yudel Krinsky is a Russian Jew from Siberia, in Russia. When he arrives in Brooklyn he is very grateful towards Asher’s father. “Did you know Asher that your father is an angel of God?” he says. When Asher first meets Yudel Krinsky his curiosity about Serbia and Yudel Krinsky begins. This curiosity soon makes him ask more and more questions about Yudel. “We saw a Jew from Russia,” he says to Mrs. Rackover. When asked about Siberia Mrs. Rackover replies, “What is Siberia? It is a land like the inside of this refrigerator. It is a land of ice and darkness where the Russian government sends people it hates. What is Siberia? No-one should know of it.” This gives a good impression to the reader the torment and struggle Yudel must have felt when living in Siberia. Asher of course does not view this information lightly and wishes to seek more answers about Yudel and Russian Jews. “The son of Reb Aryeh Lev,” is the name Asher is referred to during the beginning journeys of to Yudel’s store. It is important to note he is called the son of Aryeh Lev because they don’t really know each other but later called ‘Asher’. On the first encounter Asher does not ask Yudel any questions. On the second encounter though Asher begins to ask Yudel questions relating to the news in Russia and the relationship between Yudel and Asher begins to bloom like a rose bud.
On the next encounters to Yudel’s store, Yudel starts addressing Asher as ‘Asher’ and not ‘the son of Aryeh Lev’. Asher seems almost attracted to the store and is mesmerized by the metal glass showcase of oils and paints. When Asher steals the oils because he can’t afford them, Yudel starts nurturing Asher’s ‘gift’ and provides him paints. Yudel in essence represents the Jewish conflict and the product of Asher’s father’s work. He represents the actions of the Russian government sending people it hates, the Jews, and the result of Asher’s father tiresome work. As Asher learns to paint using more and more materials, Yudel Krinsky provides them to him. Even though Yudel knows the consequences of his actions of providing Asher with paint, he in a way repaying Asher back for Aryeh Lev’s service to him. When Asher is at his own home, or at his Uncle’s house, Yudel Krinsky provides an opening and expands Asher’s artistic horizons and ability by supplying the materials. He positively mirrors Asher and tries to help Asher preserve his heritage as a Hasidic Jew whilst still supporting his individuality. Asher is able to talk to Yudel like a father, having open discussions with him, and on occasion helps him in the store and is able to feel comfortable. The store is described as warm by Asher in the latter part of the text when returning from Europe, and is appropriately addressed because it feels like Asher’s second home, warm and cozy.
Our mind conjures an image of Yudel after Chaim Potok’s first technique of imagery is used to describe him. “He was short and thin, with large bulging eyes, a beaklike nose, and pinched wrinkled features. A dark stubble covered his face.” He starts of being described in uncomplimentary terms. Asher perceives him as being peculiar and foreign. “You learned the store quickly,” said Aryeh, “I have learned more difficult things than this store even more quickly,” says Yudel. This creates the character of Yudel Krinsky as hard working and intelligent and