Term Paper: Hunger Artist

Pages: 4 (1321 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  Topic: Art  (general)  ·  Buy This Paper

Hunger Artist

Barred in a cage, like a show animal, the hunger artist fasts for forty days, as long as he is allowed (although he would like to do longer). At first, he is the "star," and people come from far and wide to buy tickets and watch him. They do not believe that he can go so long without eating, and make sure that he does not cheat by watching him day and night. The hunger artist loves this attention and the starvation, itself.

However, with anything new and exciting, the hunger artist's act becomes old and boring. With time, no one wants to watch him anymore. People are moving on to new attractions. The hunger artist joins a circus and stays in a cage by the animals, so people have to pass him by before going to see the other animals. After a while, they do not even stop to see him, because they do not understand what he is doing. The hunger artist goes longer and finally dies from starvation.

Kafka writes in such detail in the "here and now," and starting with the present tense, that the reader is quickly swept into the story and forgets that it is an allegory and not really taking place. The descriptions, "the children stood openmouthed, holding each other's hands for greater security, marveling at him as he sat there pallid in black tights, with his ribs sticking out so prominently, not even on a seat but down among straw on the ground..." are so vivid, that the reader becomes a voyeur, as well.

The hunger artist is a person who loves attention and being in control. He uses his fasting art as a means of power over others. That is why he is so upset when they make him eat after 40 days; he has to relinquish his power. "Why should he be cheated of the fame he would get for fasting longer..." he questions. It is this fame that fills him, instead of food. He thrives on the people who come closest to the cage to see him.

The people that Kafka writes about are the same today, as they were then. The news and television shows cover the worst aspects of humanity, and people love to watch. Increasingly, the reality shows are becoming more base. In Sweden, the producers want to do a show where men and women with disfigured faces meet one another, so they, too, can date and have a normal life. Look at the amount of people who watched the trials about Anna Nicole Smith for hours at a time. While other stories came out about Iraq, Iran, President Bush and Scooter Libby, people were more interested in what was happening with Anna Nicole. However, the attention span does not remain long, people quickly move on to other stories, which are more gruesome. They relish in the fact that "it's them, not me." That is why news is told in "bites," so viewers can catch just enough to satiate their needs for the moment.

The hunger artist can be taken on many different levels of understanding. The most basic, of course, is that this man is viewed as an attraction in a zoo, as many other "freaks" are in Barnum's time and today. People love to see someone who is different than they are, and perhaps more unattractive and unhappy.

This leads to the next layer of understanding, with the use of the word "artist." Although this man's art is fasting, he stands as a symbol for all "starving artists." The concept of "starving artist," is that artists will not do anything else to make a livelihood other than their art. If they do not sell their work, they do not have much money to eat. However, they are so passionate about their work, that it does not matter. Their creativity and love of their work feeds them.

Beyond this, is the question, do… [END OF PREVIEW]

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