Chapter 4 Summary

Asher continues to draw pictures of Stalin in his coffin, changing the details with each drawing. His father and mother see them. His mother thinks they are good drawings, even though they are not about pretty things. However, she is concerned that his art is keeping him from his studies. She tells him that they are going to get their passport pictures taken the following Monday, but Asher again announces that he is not going to Vienna. He asks Reb Krinsky if he knows what a passport is. Krinsky tells him that Asher’s father is going to Vienna to do important things and reminds him of the Torah’s command: “Honor your father and mother.” Asher is drawing with charcoal now as his preferred medium, and Krinsky shows him how to use a fixative on it to keep it from smudging.

Asher asks his Uncle Yitzchok (his father’s brother) if he can live with him when his parents go to Vienna. Uncle Yitzchok tells him to stop this foolishness, but he is impressed with Asher’s increasing artistic talent. On Monday, Asher refuses to go get his picture taken, so his parents put it off. While Asher draws her picture, Mrs. Lev asks him what his drawing means to him, because it may hurt his parents. Asher ignores the question. A few nights later, Asher hears his parents arguing in Yiddish. Asher begins to notice that his eyes are changing, allowing him to see the lines and planes of the things and people he draws. He notices the small details of the world around him. Mr. Lev tells him of the Jewish communists in Russia, who had denied God and the Jewish race. It was only the Ladover and Breslover Hasidic Jews who kept the Torah alive. It was the Rebbe, along with Asher’s grandfather, who came to America to keep it alive when Russia was no longer safe. This is what Mr. Lev wants to do, and this is why he is taking his family to Vienna.

Asher goes to his Uncle Yitzchok to ask him once again if he can stay with him. Uncle Yitzchok becomes angry and tells Asher to stop acting like a child. Asher walks along the street and notices a brother and sister walking. He goes home to draw them, and he wonders about their lives, especially their parents. During Passover, the news comes that the Soviet government has released the doctors who had been arrested. Fifteen doctors were released, but only nine doctors had been arrested, with two being beaten to death. No mention is made of the discrepancy in the numbers. After Passover, Asher goes to get his passport picture taken.