The hunger artist’s remote relationship with the town’s citizens suggests that the artist separates himself from society and is most likely heavily misunderstood. Within the story one may quickly think that the story is simply about the art of fasting. However, there is a much deeper meaning in the art itself. In the beginning of the story the narrator makes very general observations about the popularity of hunger artists as a whole. Shortly into the reading the protagonist is introduced. The narrator makes it clear that he wants to be the greatest hunger artist ever. In fact, his want to be the greatest ever shows that his desire for glory is stronger than his desire to follow his bodily instinct to eat.
In the hunger artists’ eyes he believes that the citizens need to be entertained more than anything else. Then, near the end of the story the panther is introduced. While the hunger artist seeks a new form of entertainment in the circus industry, the panthers role plays a vital part in symbolizing how the public’s interest in the hunger artist so quickly dropped halfway through the reading. The panther was very much the opposite of the hunger artist. But why did the public lose interest in the hunger artist so abruptly?
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In order to answer this, we must first examine why the hunger artist does what he does and what the narrator says about his past. While hunger is a natural chemical reaction sent from our stomachs to our brains to tell it that food is required, the hunger artist sees this as something that adds to his art form, to the performance of it. Hunger is not just some bodily reaction to the artist; it stands for much more than that. At the cost of going against bodily needs, he desires artistic perfection over everything else. Once again, entertainment above personal well-being is something the artist takes very seriously. In fact, he takes it so seriously that in the end of the story, even when he knows the public interest has him nowhere in sight, he died doing what he believed was admirable.
Another thing that must be understood is the cage in which the hunger artist performs. From different points of view the cage can mean multiple things: His separation from society within the cage could represent the misunderstanding of the citizens around him; almost acting like a barrier. Meaning they don’t see the spectacle within the cage. They just see him.
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Franz Kafka’s The Hunger Artist: Critical Analysis.
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