Hunger is a term that is often defined as the physical feeling for the need to eat. However, the Hunger Artist in Kafka's A Hunger Artist places a different, more complex meaning to this word, making the Hunger Artist's name rather ironic. The hunger of the Hunger Artist is not for food. As described at the end of the essay, the Hunger Artist states that he was in fact never hungry, he just never found anything that he liked. So then, what does this man's hunger truly mean? What drives the Hunger Artist to fast for so long, if he is truly not hungry? The Hunger Artist salivates not for the food which he is teased with, nor does he even sneak food when he alone. The Hunger Artist has a hunger for fame, reputation, and honor. This hunger seems to create in the mind of the Artist, a powerfully controlling dream schema. These dreams drive the Artist to unavoidable failure and alienation, which ultimately uncovers the sad truth about the artist. The truth is that the Artist was never an artist; he was a fraudulent outcast who fought to the last moment for fame, which ultimately became a thing of the past.
The food was never the issue. The Hunger Artist was never interested. Instead, what the artist hungered for was his fans that appreciated his talent of being able to fast for such long periods of time. Kafka writes, ? Back then the whole town was engaged with the hunger artist; during his fast, the audience?s involvement grew from day to day.? (Kafka, 255) In fact, the Hunger Artist was at first a spectacle. Some fans would come more than once a day to see the Artist perform, some even reserving special viewing seats to enhance the artistic experience. The Artist made eve...
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...and ridiculed, especially for entertainment purposes. Nonetheless, the Artist shows a hunger for fame, even if the fame and attention comes from a sick and wild point of view. The Hunger Artist dies a man of sorrow and failure, but is reborn as his opposite, a hungry, strong panther eating everything that comes its way. Maybe in some way the Artist represents a lost tradition of fasting which seemed to come and go, as well as maybe representing the desire that our generation today tends to eat too much and require too much. In the end, the Hunger Artist will be remembered as an outcast of society, and after all his years of fasting, his accomplishments are forgotten, easily replaced as if he never existed.
Kafka, Franz. ?A Hunger Artist.? Literature and its Writers. Ed. Karen S. Henry. 3rd ed. Bedford/St. Martin?s, Boston/New York 2004. 255-262
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