Term Paper: Hunger Artist Published in 1924, Franz Kafka

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Hunger Artist

Published in 1924, Franz Kafka's 'The Hunger Artist' is an unforgettable story that recounts the pain and anguish of an artist who earns through public fasting. The mordent tale is highly symbolic in nature and signifies the rapid though subtle death of the artist and his art. The story revolves around a fasting artist who recalls the times when people would pay tribute to public fasting feats by visiting the artist on every single day till he broke his fast in style. In those days, "there was good money to be earned putting on major productions of this sort under one's own management" (1) but he sadly agrees that, "interest in hunger artists has declined considerably." (1)

The feat is no longer fascinating to the crowd as they have stopped visiting the artist and are more interested in other activities at the circus. Even the management doesn't really care anymore since the hunger artist is making much. The large crowds at the circus hardly notice his dull and solitary cage but if they did, the artist would consider it an honor. He was grateful for all the other activities at the circus that drew large crowds. "....he had the animals to thank for the crowds of visitors among whom, here and there, there could be one destined for him." In the end, in order to prove his worth or rather to end his sorry existence, the artist performs the feat for one last time and dies. The administration quickly replaced him with a panther - which was clearly a more lucrative option.

The story, on the surface, recounts the tale of a suffering artist but it is actually symbolic of art in general in this rapidly commercializing world. The artist represents every artist with a serious love for his talent and profession who is gradually losing his worth and value in a world that has become too materialistic and commercialized. The story may make you wonder why would an artist starve to earn? But it is not actually starvation; the story is symbolizing the starvation afflicted on every artist today. Remember the artist is not starving consciously but the society is no longer taking care of his needs as the artist in the story tells his supervisor: "...I couldn't find a food which I enjoyed. If had found that, believe me, I would not have made a spectacle of myself and would have eaten to my heart's content, like you and everyone else."

The artist also shares a weird relationship with the public. This is an interesting point to understand. The artist is in love with his profession but his love is fleeting. It is not based on his true passion for his art but on the fact that it gives him public adulation and respect. He is craving for public's love and when that love is taken away, his passion for his art diminishes to the point that it becomes non-existent. Kafka is trying to explain that art never dies and the artist doesn't have to starve if he feeds on his passion. But if it is people's adulation that he is craving, he is always vulnerable. The conversation with the supervisor highlights this sickness.

The artist is talking to the supervisor. Remember the supervisor represents the public. "I always wanted you to admire my fasting," said the hunger artist. "But we do admire it," said the supervisor obligingly. "But you shouldn't admire it," said the hunger artist. "Well then, we don't admire it," said the supervisor, "but why shouldn't we admire it?" "Because I had… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Hunger Artist Published in 1924, Franz Kafka."  Essaytown.com.  October 18, 2006.  Accessed November 13, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/hunger-artist-published-1924-franz/6256353.