Jacob Kahn grew up a religious Jew, but has long since left the faith. He went through a period of torment in his younger life as he was leaving the comfortable life he had always known in order to become and artist. We see Kahn as an old man, after an accomplished career. He has been a major figure in the history of art, the greatest sculptor of his generation. These accomplishments and previous life events inform the way he deals with Asher. He feels a special bond with Asher; after all, Asher is in the position Kahn once occupied himself—he is a gifted, young artist in a religious Jewish community. Kahn is thus drawn to consider Asher feelings—he wants to mold the young man into an artist, but he does not want him to have to undergo an experience as horrific as Kahn's on his way to becoming an artist.