Trapped, stuck in the same routine. Anything ranging from anxiety to severe depression can make people feel imprisoned every day. The characters Miss Brill, Chanyi, and The Hunger Artist all have something in common, which is the feeling of being trapped. Katherine Mansfield’s “Miss Brill” portrays the main character, Miss Brill, as someone who enjoys her own little world but, goes through a drastic change that leaves her feeling heavy hearted and confined.
“The Hunger Artist” by Franz Kafka, is about a Hunger Artist who starves himself as entertainment for others but lets his obsession keep him captive. Lan Samantha Chang’s “Hangzhou 1925°” introduces Chanyi and her conflict begins when she goes searching for answers. Miss Brill, The Hunger Artist, and Chanyi are prime examples of how sadness, fears, and excessive obsession all contribute to a captivating lifestyle in humans. In Katherine Mansfield’s “Miss Brill” we explore the main character, Miss Brill, and how her imprisoned life affects her actions and feelings. We see at the beginning of the story that Miss Brill has a strong connection towards her fur pelt and is very obsessed with herself and how she looks.
The fur pelt symbolizes herself in the story. In the beginning, she is described taking it out of its box and brushing it back to life (266) which represents Miss Brill because she sits alone in a dark room herself and gets the life brushed back into her every Sunday evening. Towards the end of the story, we see the teenagers make fun of Miss Brill and treat her like she doesn’t belong in the park (268). Since Miss Brill and the fur are a lot alike, we can infer that she is sad at the end of the story because the text refers to the fur crying in its box (269). The teenagers made Miss Brill realize that her life isn’t as lovely as she thought it was which results in her feeling sad and confined. Miss Brill has no one to come back home to or nothing to break the cycle of her boring weekly routine, which ultimately leads to a slippery slope of depression and feeling incarcerated in her daily life. “The Hunger Artist,” by Franz Kafka shows us a glimpse of a man who is obsessed and imprisoned by his fasting. We can see that The Hunger Artist is imprisoned by his passion and obsession for fasting throughout the text. For example, The Hunger Artist is passionate about his fasting because when the forty days were up, The Hunger Artist wanted to continue his form of art and stated that he could go longer, wondering, “Why stop at forty days” (650). The Hunger artist strived for passion through obsession and because of that, he was never satisfied with his work. When he starts losing traction, it results in selling out to a circus where people pass him by.
After this happens, we can see the Hunger Artist starts to take on a depressed state when the story explains how he is being ignored by these swarms of people that are passing his cage at the circus (653). He has no one to appreciate his art anymore and this results in him being depressed and seeking out all the attention he can get. The Hunger Artist is therefore caged within himself; he has only fasting. His fasting caused a monotonous life filled with obsession, depression, and loneliness. In the story “Hangzhou 1925°” by Lan Samantha Chang, it’s easy to observe the fact that Chanyi has a problem with worrying and that keeps her confined. We can infer she is worrisome when the narrator states, “But Chanyi didn’t respond. She sat clutching a package with the fortuneteller’s payment, her eyes bright with fear and resolve” (289). Chanyi has had her feet bound because, in China, this was a popular custom among young Chinese women. This results in her being handicapped. So, one way that Chanyi is trapped is by her brutal past. Chanyi’s whole conflict is that without a son, her husband will not be faithful, so with that, she is wanting to know if she’ll have a son and her future husband will stay faithful. When she asks the fortune-teller, she doesn’t give Chanyi an exact answer. Instead, she says, “There is no point in knowing what will happen” while Chanyi is begging and pleading to know (292). Chanyi is trapped in her thoughts and worries; she needs and wants her husband to be faithful. She would give up all the money in the world just to know her fate but really, it doesn’t matter if she knows her fate or not because that doesn’t change anything.
By the end of the story, she gets what she loathed because that once faithful husband found another woman to have a son with. When the new woman finally had a son, Chanyi grew to hate the child, try to stunt it, thwart it, and ruin it (293). Because of this new wife and son, Chanyi is imprisoned in her own home where she had to see her husband start a different family, which resulted in Chanyi being filled with hatred and sadness. She will always think about her worries no matter what because she is surrounded by uncertainty. In conclusion, through each one of these stories, we can analyze that each of the characters has a different problem but are all the same. Each character falls victim to imprisonment by the end of their stories, whether that be from depression, excessive obsession, or hatred. They all realize that no matter what happens, life constrains them by imprisoning and torturing them through fears. Miss Brill who enjoys her own little world at the beginning of the story, retreats to her lonely room at the end of her day.
The Hunger Artist was so invested in his fasting that his obsession got the best of him and he eventually ended up dying in that cage. Chanyi wanted to know her future, but it didn’t matter for she got what she loathed for. So, in the end, the actions of these characters reveal to us that Miss Brill, The Hunger Artist, and Chanyi let their sadness, fears, and excessive obsession cage them.