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My Name is Asher Lev: Journal Entry 5

A major theme in My Name is Asher Lev is the conflict between differing cultural values. Since Asher is a Hasidic Jew he is supposed to value many ideals. However, being an artist causes him to carry a second set of values which is very conflicting to the values a Hasidic Jew should have. The values of a painter come from the values carried by an average individual in society. They are much broader views of life. This is a major contrast of values for Asher. He faces challenges concerning what he can and can not paint due to his being a Hasidic Jew. Asher's father will not tolerate many of the objects which Asher paints in order to be a globally talented artist. Asher paints nudes and crucifixions, which no one in the Hasidic community will tolerate.

When he is painting Asher must choose between the values of the Western tradition of art or those of his culture which is definitely a minority view. In the end of the book he chooses the his values as an artist. This means defying everything which he was raised to believe as a Hasidic Jew. Asher is kicked out of his community for painting the "Brooklyn Crucifixion." Asher describes what his painting meant to society on the first page of the book. "I am a traitor, an apostate, a self-hater, an inflicter of shame upon my family, my friends, my people; also I am a mocker of ideas sacred to Christians." Based on this Asher suggests that he does not fit into society. He has defied both Jews and Christians. That leaves him in a category all his own.

The fact that Asher Lev does not fit in shows what it can be like to be a minority. Sometimes minorities are torn between two heritages. This was the similarity in The Joy Luck Club. The Chinese girls born in America felt unsure on whether they were Chinese or American. They had trouble finding unity between their two cultures just as Asher could not find unity between Western art ideals and the ideals of a Hasidic Jew. The culture values always appear to be conflicting for minorities in these books.

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