Kafka's Hunger Artist the Hunger Artist,' True Term Paper

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Kafka's Hunger Artist

The Hunger Artist,' true to Kafkan form, is a deeply ironic narrative that pairs the struggles of the individual with the whims of the larger world. In a maze characterized by consumption and self-satisfaction, the hunger artist seemingly bravely rebukes the quotidian luxuries of the masses in favor of some higher glory: the satisfaction of the fast. Ultimately, though, Kafka reveals the truth of a tragic individual so resigned to his own disposition that he found neither peace nor salvation.

The story begins with the tale o the self-acclaimed artist, the faster. In all his glory, he sits perched n a public cage, on display to the masses who are enraptured by his deft skill at avoiding the basic human need of food in favor of some larger beauty, the "art." The fast was a celebration. "At one time the whole town took a lively interest in the hunger artist... when the whole effect was heightened by torch flares; on fine days the cage was set out in the open air..." Kafka portrays the artist as he inevitably saw himself; full of the purpose and mystery that sustains that kind of behavior. Instead of being ogled for his refusal of food - or worse, rebuffed - he was acclaimed and indulged in it. "...Marveling at him as he sat there pallid in black tights, with his ribs sticking out s prominently... paying no attention to anyone or anything."

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During the height of his success, the hunger artist was constantly gifted with the visitation of avid spectators; determined to see him ignore his art in favor of a tiny morsel, they would stay all night. Some would tempt him, but to others, those most intrigued by his work who would make their way to the front of the cage, he would welcome their presence as the best point of his day. "He was quite happy at the prospect of spending a sleepless life with such watchers; he was ready to exchange stories of his nomadic life, anything at all to keep them awake..." so that he might prove to them that he had achieved some form of higher being and that they, too, should celebrate with him.

Term Paper on Kafka's Hunger Artist the Hunger Artist,' True Assignment

It is at this point in the story that Kafka begs us to understand what "art" is and should be deemed. Is a faster really an artist? Is there such thing as a 'hunger artist'? The torches, fresh air, and fanfare aside, Kafka still chooses his words carefully enough that we can tell that this existence of the 'artist' is not necessarily one quickly attributed to glory; a pallid complexion and the inside of a cage are not the joys for which all little children grow. Yet, it is something at which they are inclined to stare; does that make it "art?"

The reader is begged to begin rolling these questions around his brain while the artist continues his self-deprivation. By the fortieth day of his strike, he was so close to pure starvation that he was no longer refusing food, but in the advance stages of pain so powerful that even the body forces its own coping mechanism. "The artist now submitted completely; his head lolled on his breast as if it had landed there by chance; his body was hollowed out; his legs in a spasm of self-preservation clung to each other at the knees..." And what is clearly painful to the onlooker was not so to the artist. He struggled with why forty days, set by the impresario his fame afforded him to staff, should be the duration of his fast. "His public pretended to admire him so much, why should it have so little patience with him; if he could endure fasting longer, why shouldn't the public endure it?"

Leaving the cage in all his spectacular grandeur, Kafka reveals the severity of the words 'pretended' and 'endure.' With the artist continuing on in this manner for several years, Kafka allows the reader to remain comfortable with the success of the fast; it is almost with surprise that the first sentence of the story takes affect and the faster loses his popularity. "For the last time, the impresario hurried him over half Europe to discover whether the old interest might still survive here and there; all in vain; everywhere, as if by secret agreement, a positive revulsion from professional fasting was in evidence." It was with such lack of repute and celebration that he was forced to let go of his impresario and join a large circus instead. "So he took leave of the impresario, his partner in an unparalleled career, and hired himself to a large circus; in order to spare his own feelings he avoided reading the conditions of his contract."

The pain of the circus life upon the faster was immediately clear; placed in the pathway to the animal menagerie, he was subjected to the sounds and smells of such close animal proximity. Likewise, the masses from which he yearned some collective return came drifting past his cage caring less for him than their imminent arrival at the animals and only very infrequently stopping to notice his art. It is here, in the pale light of the circus, that the artist's "art" of hunger and fasting no longer seems to hold the same sway it once did in the great, torch-lit theater. Here, it is most easy to picture the artist at his most honest: a man, starving, locked inside a cage, watching fresh meat and animal matter pass him by while others rushed onward.

Yet, not immediately did the artist lose sight of his dreams. He suffered - at the hands of the menagerie, as people made "their choice" to see something else, in this little life he had chosen that used to grant him such immense pleasure. He began to lose his zeal in the public and their seeming admiration, and eventually, he resigned himself to a state of starvation that no one before had witnessed: he would fast without end. In doing so, he approached the world mentally as if, for his great sacrifice, he should be treated with the speculation and celebration he once was, but he was no longer. The art of fasting, as Kafka so introduced the tale, had quickly diminished in the public's eyes. "He was working honestly," the artist mourned, "but the world was cheating him of his reward."

After several weeks of carrying on in his cage with no food or water upon which to subsist, the artist died. In this last stroke of action, an overseer noticed that one cage was empty, only to find that inside of it, in the straw, was the starving artist. "I always wanted you to admire my fasting," the artist said, but then revealed they shouldn't it - he fasted "because I couldn't find the food I liked." The true irony of the story lays in the reason for the fast; not because of some higher calling or innate skill did the artist fast, but out of pure disdain for the food he knew and lack of exploration for the food he didn't did the artist die. In that - a resignation from life itself - there is certainly no "art."

In addition to questioning the nature and meaning of "art," the story bespeaks the body as a commodity that is to be bought, sold, and sharpened for means of public excitement. The gory details of the fast sold to the public, not the sad resignation of a man near to death. Kafka obsessed over the commercialization of the man as a product in and of himself, and the hunger artist reveals this dilemma most strategically, selling himself into a life in a cage in order to be loved.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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