A major theme in the book My Name is Asher Lev is the role of the past. The past was a very important part of Asher's life in both dreams and in daylight. Asher's "mythic ancestor" appeared to him in dreams. It was his father's great-great-grandfather. He strongly disproved of Asher's art. Asher often had nightmares involving his "mythic ancestor." I thought this was a very interesting concept. I rarely think about my ancestors and found it odd how often Asher dreamt of this man. His mythic ancestor played a very important role in his life, despite living generations before he did. Asher saw him so vividly that he was able to make a painting of him. When I read I was somewhat confused. Did Asher actually see his ancestor vividly enough to paint him or did he imagine the image?
I think Asher's mythic ancestor was part of the book in order to warn Asher of his differing cultural values. I do not believe that the spirit of his ancestor was actually appearing to him (as Asher seemed to think). I think Asher had dreams of him so often because he was scared. Asher was afraid of defying his father and the Jewish community. However, he knew he had to in order to be a successful artist. Asher's mythic ancestor was holding him back from reaching his potential as an artist. Asher had to decide between obeying his ancestor, hence acting as a perfect Hasidic Jew, and creating his own life as an artist. I feel that his mythic ancestor was part of the reason why he gave up painting when he was five, during his mother's illness.
When the book ends Asher has been expelled from the Jewish community in Brooklyn. I think this symbolizes that his mythic ancestor will stop visiting him. The role of the past will be less important in his life.