Hunger artist Essay
1. In the picture inspired by Franz Kafka’s “A Hunger Artist” there is a depiction of the man who is fasting, sitting solemnly in a cage as people look in at him as if he is a sideshow. Women, child, and men are all milling about looking in at the hunger artist and reading the signs that are posted around him, all of which sensationalize the hunger artists’ plight. The picture is loyal to the story as it brings a visual image of what it was like for the hunger artist, who simply sits there, starving himself for the amusement of the public.
This picture is a wonderful depiction of the scene as described by Kafka when he writes, “While for grown-ups the hunger artist was often merely a joke, something they participated in because it was fashionable, the children looked on amazed, their mouths open, holding each other’s hands for safety, as he sat there on scattered straw—spurning a chair—in a black tights.
Looking pale, with his ribs sticking out prominently, sometimes nodding politely, answering questions with a forced smile, even sticking his arm out through the bars to let people feel how emaciated he was, but then completely sinking back into himself, so that he paid no attention to anything, not even to what was so important to him, the striking of the clock, which was the single furnishing in the cage, merely looking out in front of him with his eyes almost shut and now and then sipping from a tiny glass of water to moisten his lips (Kafka)”.
2. A parable is a story that conveys its message or moral indirectly through the use of symbolism or analogies and the story “A Hunger Artist” is like a parable in that it conveys its meaning through symbolism and analogies. This story is a parable of the way the public looks at people and what our need for entertainment drives us to do. The hunger artist himself at the end seems to understand that the only reason he had harmed himself by fasting for so long was because he couldn’t be like the other people–food became a symbol of life. The ones who looked in on him had learned how to live life, while he never could.
The comparison of starving oneself to being an art becomes a part of the parable as well, and the author writes, “Try to explain the art of fasting to anyone! ” (Kafka). 3. In the story the author describes the hunger artist as an “an unfortunate martyr” because he is sacrificing so much for his art. There doesn’t seem to be anything incredibly important about what he is doing, yet he continues to sacrifice in order to do it. He is a martyr to the dying arts, the things that people do not care about anymore, and yet he keeps going forward. In the end he dies for his art, despite the fact he cannot do anything else, according to his own beliefs. 4.
When the hunger artist joins the circus and is put near the animal cages this symbolized the fact that the public no longer cares about him as an artist, now he is simply entertainment, something strange and odd to be gawked at. While once they looked at what he did with awe and respect, now they see him as something strange and do not pay much mind to him. He is like an animal: something that can be caged up and ignored, but once in a while looked at with only passing interest. The public suddenly stopped caring about him, as the author states, “At any rate, one day the pampered hunger artist saw himself abandoned by the crowd of pleasure seekers, who preferred to stream to other attractions” (Kafka). 5.
The last paragraph of the story shows just how people can soon forget something. No one remembers the hunger artist and, in fact, are relieved to see a panther in the cage, wild and savage, trying desperately to get out of the cage. The hunger artist had been happy in a cage, content with nothing, and yet the panther is the exact opposite. People see the panther and his “noble body” as being the future, something that is strong, like they wish to be. They do not want to see someone unhappy with his life, unhappy with his situation, and depriving himself. They want to see the spirit of something wild. As Kafka writes, “It enjoyed the taste and never seemed to miss its freedom” (Kafka).