By: Nathan Hwang
Asher is the protagonist in the novel and is also the character who tells the story. When the novel begins, Asher is around the age of four or five and at the end of the novel he is about twenty years old. He is a lonely boy in his adolescent years and finds his passion for art and drawing. Asher Lev is very emotional about his feelings about his family and his own thoughts and channels his energy into his art works. He favors art more heavily than his Hasidic roots and eventually becomes apathetic to the things around him besides his own art.
Aryeh Lev is Asher’s father. He speaks several different languages and is regarded highly in the Jewish community. He is also incredibly devoted to preserving the culture of the Hasidic community and assisting fellow Jews who are being persecuted in other countries. He criticizes Asher's art when he is child and emphasizes the importance of education to Asher when he is a child. Aryeh is stubborn about his own beliefs and does not understand why his son loves art so much. His inflexible attitude creates a gap in the relationship between him and Asher.
Rivkeh is Asher's mother and a key character in the novel. She is the loving woman figure in the Lev family who tries to encourage Asher and support Aryeh at the same time. This balance proves too hard as she eventually rejects Asher and his artwork. However, like her husband, she is intelligent as well. After her brothers death, it is evident that she is emotionally connected to her close relatives and worries about them consistently.
He is Asher's mentor as he grows up. Being a prominent Jewish artist himself, Jacob teaches Asher how to free himself from the religious restrictions Asher grew up in. Even though he is old, Jacob Kahn is very dedicated and determined to produce excellent art just like Asher but is particularly blunt when it comes to criticism. He develops a strong relationship with Asher and shows him the fundamentals of art.
Yaakov is Asher's uncle who dies in a car accident when Asher is young. Though he is a minor character, it seems that he has a major influence on Rivkeh by the way she reacts to his death. The fact that he was dedicated to his work with the Rebbe just like Aryeh is, disturbs Rivkeh as a wife. He is not mentioned as much as other characters in the story but has an impact on a major character in the book, Rivkeh.
Yudel is a Jewish man originally from Russia who came to the U.S with the help from Asher's father. He enjoys Asher's company when Asher comes to buy art supplies from his store and is especially kind to him. Krinsky is impacted from his experience in Siberia and is shown by his social actions.
In Depth Analysis- Rivkeh Lev
The most noticeable trait about Rivkeh Lev is her loving nature. Asher's mother only, "...wants you [Asher] to be happy.." (Potok 65) as she supported him when Asher was a child. Rivkeh was almost, "..a gentle big sister..." (Potok 7) which describes the kind of relationship Asher and his mother had toghether. She dearly loved Asher and wanted him to be the best that he could be but as he grew older it became harder and harder as Asher's views split from his mother's views. She, "..hoped you [Asher] would thank me by studying harder in school.." (Potok 174) however the ridicule she received from Aryeh would make her think again when she wants to reward Asher. Her loving nature for Asher and her husband is essential in uniting the family. Without her care and affection, the relationship between Asher and Aryeh would have dissipated quicker. This trait also develops the plot by creating a internal conflict between favoring her son or favoring her husband who both have opposing views.