A Hunger Artist

Analysis Of “The Hunger Artist” By Franz Kafka

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

“A Hunger Artist” by Franz Kafka was written in 1922. Historical, Political, and/ Cultural events/experiences that influenced or inspired the author’s views during the time that this story was written: Franz Kafka was a German-speaking Jew living in Austro-Hungarian where Jews weren’t treated well due to Nazi Power. Kafka lived in a Ghetto, so he spent his time being separated from other people for being different. He probably disliked the government.

Based on my research on Kafka, most of his writings were about a main character dealing with guilt or anxiety. “A Hunger Artist” was inspired by his feelings about living in a ghetto; separated from society. Central Character, with brief description: The main character of “A Hunger Artist” is a performer that travels with the impresario. His act is starving himself, hence the name “A Hunger Artist. ” The artist got annoyed at the people who didn’t believe. No matter what the artist did to prove that he did not eat, people were still are skeptical. Later in the story, when he did his act at a circus, he was put towards the entrance and nobody stopped to look at him. He didn’t feel appreciated and knew that his act was being forgotten because nobody kept track of how many days he fasted. Other Characters, with brief descriptions: The minor characters are the impresario, who travels with the artist at the beginning and the overseer, who discovers the artist dying. These two characters are not mentioned a lot in the story.

Summary of Events organized by plot structure. “A Hunger Artist” is about a solo act that travels to different cities in Europe. The act is a man who starves himself for 40 days. He is put on display for the people to see. Some people were skeptical about his talent, so they hire people to sit and watch “the hunger artist. ” Sometimes, the artist would sing so people would know that he was not eating, but people were too hard to convince. This made the artist annoyed, but there was nothing he could do about it from the cage he performed in. After 40 days of starvation, the impresario would have a doctor measure the artist and two women are picked from the crowd to pull him out of the cage. This also annoyed the artist because he knew he could starve himself even more than 40 days. As the years past, the act got less famous. The artist was too old to find a job, so he continued his act at a circus. The circus put his act in the front, near the entrance instead of inside the tent with all the other acts. He realized he was unimportant because the circus loss track of how many days he fasted and people no longer looked at his attraction. He didn’t understand why people didn’t appreciate his act. Towards the end of the story, the man is found under the hay of the cage, dying. He last words explain why he didn’t eat; because he didn’t like food. Lastly, the overseer used his cage for a panther. Tone and Irony: The story had the tone of emptiness. The artist’s stomach was empty, and his profession didn’t give his life any purpose besides starving for another day. This emptiness is also shown when nobody visits his attraction, and everyone loses count of how many days he fasted.

The Irony is that his cage is replace with a large animal who loves to eat compared to the artist who is skinny and weak. Central Theme: I think the artist separates himself from the world because he feels like he doesn’t belong there. The theme could be self-hatred because he consciously knows what he is doing and if he loved himself, he wouldn’t let himself starve to death. Pride could also be another theme because the hunger artist doesn’t want to listen to anyone- in the long run, his pride kills him. Symbols and what they represent in the story: The 40 days he fasts refers to the bible story. In the bible, Jesus fast for 40 days and 40 nights to prepare for the ministry of God. During this time, Satan tempts him, but Jesus refuses. This could be like the story because everyone tells the artist to eat, but he continued to fast (I don’t think that is a good thing- but it’s similar) Another symbol could be the cage. The cage separates the artist from the world, so maybe this barrier is the thing that makes him different; his dislike for food. Maybe he does not feel like he belongs in the world. Final Evaluation: I think this story teaches you to love yourself, but not too much. I feel like everyone should love themselves for the differences, unlike the artist who separates himself from everyone because he is different. You should learn to love yourself, but don’t become too prideful.

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A Look at Depression as Illustrated in Franz Kafka’s Book, a Hunger Artist

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

Franz Kafka’s pieces are wrought with allegorical nonsense upon the first glance. However, when one analyzes the extensive symbolism within the short stories, it is clear that they are oftentimes a response to his own life, as well as the current events of the early 20th century. I propose that A Hunger Artist was an indirect response to the early explanation of depression, presented by German psychiatrist Kurt Schneider in 1920. Kafka recognized the flawed thinking in Schneider’s theory and instead created a literary allegory, intentionally writing in the manner to attempt to enact a psychological state of being, in an effort to propose his own theory on the subject. Furthermore, this story was the catalyst for the cognitive psychological views concerning clinical depression that began in the 1950s. These views, which ultimately originated from Kafka’s work, were the starting point in defining depression in contemporary psychology.

In 1920, Schneider coined the terms “endogenous depression” and “reactive depression”. These terms considered mood independent of outside stimuli. Therefore, he believed that depression is caused by a sensitivity of mood, not a person’s reactions to external events. Two years later, Kafka’s A Hunger Artist was published. I hypothesize that in this two year time period, Kafka heard of Schneider’s work, which was published in Kafka’s native tongue, and decided to express his oppositional opinion on the subject of clinical depression.

In the 1950s, cognitive psychologists began to present their theories concerning the cause of depression. Albert Ellis argued that depression originates with irrational thought processes. This system of irrational thought then leads to “inappropriate self-blame, self-pity, or other-pity in times of adversity” (Ellis, 1962). This irrational thought processes are clearly exemplified in Kafka’s story, which may provide evidence for the theory that Ellis’ ideas stemmed from A Hunger Artist. The following symbolism presented in this story illustrate and explain various aspects of the cognitive psychological view of depression.

The cage represents the mind. A sufferer of depression battles on a daily basis with negative, harmful thoughts. These thoughts, which often seem to oppress or imprison the individual, are nearly impossible to escape. As hard as one tries to look on the bright side or experience positivity, those thoughts are there to lock one into the cage once again. However, one must note that in the story, the hunger artist willingly locked himself in the cage. He could have easily ended his career, never to be detained again, but he chose not to. This symbolizes the lack of control an individual with depression experiences. Those who have not actually experienced depression firsthand sometimes ignorantly state, “Why don’t you just choose to be happy?” It is difficult for these people to understand that when you have depression, it seems as if the cage is your only choice. You are a prisoner to your thoughts—they control you, and there is no escape. This clearly exemplifies the cognitive psychological form of self-pity a person with depression experiences.

The clock, which counts the number of days the artist has gone without food, symbolizes a further lack of control over one’s life. Many people who experience depression yearn to achieve happiness—just as knowing the number of days would have made the hunger artist happy. But to his dismay, the employees eventually lost interest in him and began to neglect updating the clock on a daily basis (276). Although the hunger artist wants to achieve his goal of breaking the record, he is unable to do so because of his lack of control over how often the numbers are updated. This can also represent the apathetic state in which individuals with depression find themselves. The employees eventually lost interest in the hunger artist, and thereby lost the desire to change the numbers on the clock. This is a common occurrence in individuals with depression; as they inevitably lose interest in a particular subject, they descend further and further into an apathetic, vegetative state. This also supports the cognitive psychological theory by portraying the transition from self-pity to apathy in a person with depression.

The panther symbolizes the more exciting successors that will inevitably replace an individual suffering from depression. When plagued with negative, harmful thoughts, a person with depression convinces themselves of their worthlessness. No one appreciates their existence; in fact, many would rather they did not exist at all. In the story, the hunger artist’s death is summarized into one short clause in a sentence (277). In the sentence immediately following, the panther is introduced and hordes of people gather to see this exceptional creature. An individual with depression imagines, when stuck in this cycle of negative thinking, that upon their departure, their presence will be immediately replaced by someone everyone else will fawn over and love more. This exemplifies the self-blame a person with depression experiences—it is their own fault that other’s do not love them or find them interesting. This correlates directly with the cognitive psychological view of depression.

Finally, the food represents the happiness that has yet to be found. The ultimate message of A Hunger Artist is that the protagonist did not starve in order to further his career—he did not eat because he simply could not find a food he enjoys. “If I had found it,” the hunger artist says, referring to food, “believe me, I should have made no fuss and stuffed myself like you or anyone else” (277). An individual with depression, when all is said and done, would likely say that if they could choose between being depressed or happy, they would choose happiness. However, they are unable to accomplish this desire because they simply have not found the aspect of life that makes them happy. Again, this is a direct representation of the self-blame a person with depression experiences, according to the cognitive psychological theory. The hunger artist, on his deathbed, blames himself for his lifetime of starvation and unhappiness.

This yearning to find the aspect of life that provides happiness and meaning is illustrated in Kafka’s personal life as well. Kafka, who very likely suffered from clinical depression himself, grew up in a critical environment, as he constantly lived in the shadow of his oppressing father. This oppression is further demonstrated by the fact that he was a minority within a minority: a Czech speaking Jew. When attending university, he studied law, but still desired to experience what made him happy: literature. He eventually joined Lese-und Redehalle der Deutschen Studenten, a university club that organized literary events such as readings or other activities. Through literature, Kafka felt able to express his emotions—emotions that, as a sufferer of depression, were unique to only him. Because no one would understand the adversity he experienced, writing acted as his sole outlet. Kafka truly understood how depression manifested itself within the individual, and he understood that Schneider’s “endogenous depression” or “reactive depression” theories were flawed. This was the catalyst for A Hunger Artist’s coming into existence.

A Hunger Artist further exemplifies cognitive psychological values when assessing the relationship between the spectacle and the spectator. When a person performs, they often do something that awed the crown because they themselves are not capable of matching their abilities. Likewise, Kafka believes that others are not capable of understanding his thoughts or experiences. As a result, others see him as foreign, an alien, or even animalistic. This irrational thought process is the hallmark of cognitive psychological theories.

Some critics of my theory may argue that A Hunger Artist is simply a religious allegory, as the hunger artist himself exemplifies the Christ archetype. He is traveling and performing miracles, he fasted for 40 days, and he experiences a public display of death. These events can all be likened to Christ’s behavior of ministering to various groups of people, healing the sick, and performing miracles. He also fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, and experienced a public display of death when He was crucified on the cross. This is the clearest allegorical explanation and therefore, they argue, the most correct. Although Kafka’s story can also fit into this allegorical mold, I believe it is more likely that his writings were first and foremost dealing with the educational advancements, and therefore the emerging psychological theories, and current societal events at the time.

If this is true and Kafka indeed wrote concerning current events, then others may argue that A Hunger Artist was instead an allegory of the laborer. During this time, capitalistic values were blossoming. Wealth and power were viewed as superior to leisure. For example, the impresario most clearly represents the avid capitalist—his sole motivation is to profit monetarily from the miracles performed by the hunger artist. In harmony with the commodity fetish, the impresario reduces the hunger artist to a commodity—he is simply something that can provide profit and gain. To this, I argue that as Kafka dealt with an intensifying case of clinical depression at the time, it is more likely that he would direct his attention inward. That is, in the framework of discussing current societal events, he would be more likely to discuss those that concerned his clinical depression as opposed to common economic events.

The reading of A Hunger Artist as an allegory of depression in contemporary times helps readers to understand and empathize with Kafka’s illustration of depression. Especially as advocates are fighting to break down the negative stigma toward depression, literary works concerning this specific mental illness will move into the spotlight. Without exception, everyone experiences a period of unhappiness in their lives. Although they may not be clinically depressed, they can find comfort in reading the works of Kafka, as they no longer feel alone during times of adversity—they feel as though someone else finally understands what they are experiencing. It is this mutual understanding that can propel these individuals toward a state of healing and acceptance.

The reading of A Hunger Artist as an allegory of depression at the time of publication proved extremely important in the wake of upcoming events. With the Great Depression—which commenced only seven years later in 1929—looming, Kafka’s story was not only psychologically relevant, but timely in terms of current economic events. As the Great Depression progressed, these external factors prompted a stark rise in clinical depression. Thus, the need to explain this illness became increasingly important, which is why thinkers referred to A Hunger Artist when developing the backbone of cognitive psychological theories of depression. Kafka was not only a revolutionary literary figure of the 20th century, I argue that he was one of the founding fathers of cognitive clinical depressive theory as well.

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Analysis of Franz Kafka’s Book, a Hunger Artist

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

Starved for Attention

The problem with a public spectacle is often that its flame of enticement burns out over time. This premise serves as the central focus in, “A Hunger Artist” by Franz Kafka. The author depicts the hunger artist’s eventual downfall through themes of isolation to society and his extreme hubris that only further separates him and makes his reasoning and ambition even more misunderstood by his spectators.

The hunger artist’s relationship with humanity is weakened severely as time progresses. Within the text Kafka repeatedly mentions the hunger artists detachment through the theme of isolation. He states, “So he lived for many years, with small regular intervals of recuperation, in visible glory, honored by the world, yet in spite of that, troubled in spirit, and all the more troubled because no-one would take his trouble seriously” (Kafka, 330-331). Even though he is first glorified by the world for his spectacle, the lack of understanding for what it takes to do what he does makes him uneasy in his mind and spirit knowing that the pubic is celebrating him for something they can neither comprehend, nor relate to. The irony is that his fierce desire to accomplish his goals and be lauded for doing so, only serves to drive a greater wedge between himself and the spectators who’s approval he so desperately seeks. Because they cannot comprehend what his talent takes, they are not fully fazed by what they see since they cannot appreciate the spectacle. Kafka illustrates this in the following quote: “…and no one had any cause to be dissatisfied with the proceedings, no one except the hunger artist himself, he only, as always” (Kafka, 330). His artistic person is almost completely separated from his actual physical being and additionally the rest of the world because he truly believes no one can understand his purpose or why he is never satisfied.

The hunger artist’s hubris is both beneficial and hurtful to his career and connection to society, which helps links the two main themes in the story together. In fact isolation goes hand in hand with pride, a fact best demonstrated by the way in which the artist isolates himself due to his determination to accomplish his goals and focus only on his artistic purposes. So, it is ultimately his excessive pride that fuels the public’s diminishing opinion of him. Kafka illustrates his immense ego in the following quote, “…he was ready to exchange jokes with them, to tell them stories out of his nomadic life, anything at all to keep them awake and demonstrate to them again that he had no eatables in his cage and that he was fasting as not one of them could fast” (Kafka, 328). Here, he brags about his abilities that his onlookers clearly do not possess. And while it is apparent that he thinks rather highly of himself, at the same time he still seems desperate to make people aware of his remarkable talent. Sadly, he goes about it the wrong way, showing his conceit, which only makes people appreciate him less. Kafka further demonstrates this concept in the following, “…for being not only the record hunger artist of all time, which presumably he was already, but for beating his own record by a performance beyond human imagination, since he felt that there were no limits to his capacity for fasting” (Kafka, 329-330). Despite the fact that his immense pride isolates him from society, it is also what allows him to push himself further and starve himself until a point where his talent becomes second nature to him. Leaving one to wonder that if something becomes so innate, is it even really a talent at all anymore, or perhaps merely a learned behavior, born out of a need for acceptance and adulation.

Franz Kafka’s “A Hunger Artist” offers a perfect example of how a reader’s extensive analysis of the story can lead to having a better grasp of its purpose. By dissecting the author’s work and performing a close reading the reader is better able to understand some of the key concepts, one being theme. In “A Hunger Artist” two key themes, isolation and pride become readily apparent and ultimately lead to the artist’s demise. By understanding these themes and their relevance to the story, the reader is able to both empathize with and condemn the main character; as he allows pride in his talent to completely consume him and further isolate him from society. It is only through appreciation of the main themes and their impact on the story that the reader can truly try and identify with the idea of performance versus spectacle and in the process, form an educated opinion about where the hunger artist lies on that spectrum.

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A Study of Franz Kafka’s Narrative, a Hunger Artist

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

Introduction

In most works of literature, the characters often present ideas that sometimes conflict with the audience’s view on matters affecting the society. The conflict is often seen in matters related to cultural practices. The characters are at some pint alienated from the society based on their argument on gender, race, class or even ethnic backgrounds. It is thus clear that artistry is never understood by those on the opposite side of art as depicted in Franz Kafka’s “A Hunger Artist.”This essay will prove Kafka’s position regarding literature as well as shedding more on his real life that motivated him to leave his family and the society as the main idea of creating the story and molded the symbolic characters, hunger artist, that he uses as his mouthpiece.

Critical analysis of the text

The hunger artist felt it was important to fast to receive his reward. He pushed himself past the 40 days of fasting to not only prove to himself but everyone around him he could do so. But the artist would find this very irritating because he always considered his cage to be the mark of his struggle (Naz 2011).

Kafka would rather choose a new style of writing that would present him with the opportunity to express his ideas and desires. It is the unique desire that explains his unique artistry. His distinct style of writing has spurred reactions among the readers who see him as a rebel in the way he views the society and his manner of appreciating it. The readers find some of the works appealing because they are never concerned with the authors or the artists. Such kind of viewers will provide a more rational perspective on the work.

The hunger artist’s unstable relationship with the audiences reveals that the artist lives in a society distinct from that of his audiences which are the main reason why the audiences and the artist have conflicting ideas hence misunderstanding each other. Being an artist, according to Kafka, means moving away from the society and the world at large. This conclusion is reflected in the story through the artist to remain in a cage to separate from the audience. The physical separation of the artist from the audience is symbolic (Naz 2011). It symbolizes ideological separation that exists between the audience’s will and the ego of the artists. It is this gap in the mindset that results from the misunderstanding between the two parties.

The hunger artist challenges his audiences as well as his manager due to the fact the in his such for perfection, the qualities that other artists use to interact with the audience is what he preserves. Artists create their understanding with the audiences through interactions. It is ironical however that the hunger artist seeks his perfection and fame through living a solitary life by separating himself from the society and the world as a whole (Morton 2012). This move furthers the misunderstanding between the as audiences who end up ignoring the artist entertainments and opt for newer entertainers. The artist considers his frame and the ribcage with pessimism and but considers it an honorary achievement. His pitiful physical appearance repels the lady who is willing to carry the artist from the cage and the end of his performances.

The artist’s pride also plays a significant role in the misunderstanding that is witnessed between the artist and his audiences. The artist is proud of himself despite the fact that his suffering is, manifested by his physical appearance. It is the hunger that turns that artist away from the society and confines himself into his world. The hunger artist furthers his fasting by isolating himself in a cage and begins intense meditation. Unfortunately, the story ends with the pride offering the artist shame instead of fame and success (Kafka 2012).

Due to the misunderstanding that dominates the artist’s performances, he is forced to explain to the audiences the nature of art continually. To him, doing so would him establish his unique identity that he is seeking through his art. The audience gives his move a different point of view. The crowd is hurt and thinks the artist is using fasting to hide his frustrations (Morton 2012). As a result, the artist fails to achieve his goal as the audiences lose connection with the performer.

He loses his public appeal and realizes how important his audience is. This reveals the importance of the crowd during the performances of literary works in Europe. The audiences decided the destiny of an artist because their approval moved the mass. He tries to convince the public that he cares not whether he has achieved his goal and that the audience needs to know that he is fasting willingly and not cheated as the many of them perceive his actions (Passmore 2009). Kafka uses the hunger artist to portray his alienation from his culture and the society. The artist’s constant faceoff with the audiences and the overseas represents the deepening dislike between the audience and the artist confined to solitary life is a symbol of the deepening alienation. It reveals the wild relationship existing between the Kafka and the world.

The young panther, unlike the hunger artist, captures the attention of the audience so fast and the crowd is attracted to it. This is due to the fact it presents the crowd with what they would love to see in the society. As opposed to the artist, the panther is powerful and lively. The panther represents the physical vigor of the world. Unlike the artist, he lived in the cage with a constant search for satisfaction; the panther is contented and wants nothing. Despite it being a cage, the Panther feels free and gives an aura reflecting its freedom (Passmore 2009). The crowd that surrounds the Panthers shows how important it is to engage with the world. Its strength attracted the multitude that the artist could not.

Conclusion

Kafka’s story uses rational paradoxes to addresses issues that affect the society. It is clear from the story that man is in constant search for the truth. People have their different ways of fulfilling their wants and the truths. When these different ways of finding truth differ, a conflict and misunderstanding arise. One of the characters thus is forced to destroy himself as he/ she searches the truth. Suffering sometimes becomes the only way out to achieving success and finding the truth. Kafka uses the story to represents the artists’ struggle to gain fame and recognition, something he, himself wanted for himself.

The misunderstanding that exists between the artist and the crowd represents Kafka’s relationship with the world. He left home and his culture as well to live a solitary life. From the story, it is also evident that the audience can never correctly establish the authors’ point of views of the ideas that he/ she discusses the works of art. The misunderstanding the conflict arises the when the author’s ego goes against the public’s will.

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The theme of life, existence and conciousness

November 2, 2020 by Essay Writer

In his short story “A Hunger Artist,” Franz Kafka uses the extreme example of the fictional hunger artist to discuss the dichotomy between art and life. Usually, an artist uses his life to create his art. Thus, an artist alienated from the world will use his art to represent alienation, which ironically might bring him closer to the world. Kafka did this by writing about his sentiments of isolation and frustrations with society in stories such as “The Metamorphosis” and his novel The Trial. By writing these stories, Kafka expressed some of his disappointment with the world, and leaves it to his audience to analyze them as such. In this cycle, the artist channels his problems into art to manage his difficulties, and the audience accepts the art, providing the artist social acceptance and relief from solitude.

Kafka sheds light on this healthy cycle by portraying the production of art in “A Hunger Artist,” in which the artist’s creation of art does not lead to a positive cycle, because his suffering begets suffering. His desire to be an artist is explained via “his inner dissatisfaction” (246) with the world. The hunger artist does not starve himself because he believes starvation to be a respected art form, but “because I couldn’t find the food I liked” (255). Instead of channeling his problems into creating art, the hunger artist uses himself as canvas and personifies his dissatisfaction, which leads to a lack of separation between artist and art. Without such a separation, the hunger artist depends entirely on the audience’s appreciation in order for the piece to function. In fact, “nothing annoyed the artist more than” the night watchers who paid little attention to him, giving him ample time to sneak food, and “much more to his taste were the watchers who sat close up to the bars…who focused him in the full glare of the electric pocket torch” (245). The artist turns to his audience for approval, and would do, “anything at all to keep [these watchers] awake and demonstrate…that he was fasting as not one of them could fast” (245). He must prove himself to the audience by showing his talent and gaining its approval, and only then, when he is “honored by the world” (249), can the hunger artist consider himself accomplished. However, the more the artist fasts, the more the audience disbelieves he actually does so, which causes him further suffering and leads to a negative smaller cycle within the already detrimental larger cycle of the hunger artist’s production.

Although the hunger artist mainly receives negative feedback from the audience, he is only able to live because the audience pays him attention. This point is more obvious when, “the interest in professional fasting…markedly diminished” (243), which eventually leads to the hunger artist’s demise, since no one takes an active interest in his life, allowing him to starve to death. The hunger artist is not closer to the world through his creation process, but finds he can only even survive by creating art and having the audience view it. Instead of using art as an expression of his life, the hunger artist uses his art to live. Thus, he has no life outside of his art.

Through the hunger artist, Kafka defines the dangers of depending on art for life. The hunger artist expresses his dissatisfaction with the world by using himself and not an external canvas to create his artwork, forcing a lack of separation between the artist and his art. Therefore, instead of the art depending on the audience, the artist depends on the audience, meaning when the audience’s appreciation for the work dwindles, their appreciation for the artist diminishes as well, leading to the hunger artist’s death. In this work, Kafka provides a prime example of how not to create art, and somewhat resolves the conflict between art and life. Kafka demonstrates that the artist must separate himself from his work by channeling creating something external from the self. Thus, the artist will not be as critically dependent on his work for survival.

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Relgious Imagery in The Hunger Arist

November 2, 2020 by Essay Writer

In A Hunger Artist by Franz Kafka, one can argue the character of the Hunger Artist is an absurdist anti-hero parallel to the heroic figure of Jesus Christ in the Holy Bible. The Hunger Artist is a narration of a “starving, dying art”, and one of the most relative interpretations for its time can be attributed to religion. Although Kafka was born Jewish and later devoted himself to atheism, he had no trouble alluding to things that were central to European society. That being said, “A Hunger Artist” is a Christ-like figure, or a martyr, as Kafka believed, who would absurdly devote himself to religion during the modernist age when there was a declining interest in religion.

The story opens with “In the last decade, there has been a declining interest in hunger artists”, which possibly may be a reference to the rise of atheism in the nineteen twenties, supported by Kafka’s atheism. First, let’s define what it means to be a hunger artist. A hunger artist in this story is a “an artist who masochistically starves himself for the pleasure of others as an art form”, but could be extended metaphorically to mean “a starving artist of a dying art”. Either way, “starving or pleasing others as an art and suffering for it” or “doing what you want” all pertains to the conundrum of the modernist age where people don’t seem to care unless you are with the times.

Skepticism and uncertainty in the Hunger Artist can also be compared to Christianity. People doubted the Hunger Artist’s fasting just like people doubted Jesus Christ’s words. Those who truly believed would have to believe in the number of days that the Hunger Artist fasted even though it’s physically impossible for one to fast for that long. There’s also the question of the reliability of the narrator, as we question the word of the Bible. Is the Bible really the word of God? And did this narrator really know the Hunger Artist and follow him and know if he ate or not? Is he or she too proud to say anything?

The Hunger Artist’s period of fasting, forty days, alludes to Christ. However, the Hunger Artist chooses to go beyond the maximum period of fasting and fast much longer, which makes him a “Super-Christ” figure. Ironically, after he surpasses Christ, people lose interest in him for nobody can surpass Christ. Both Christ and the Hunger Artist were martyr characters. Both characters starved for many days. Both characters died merciless and painfully. While Christ was murdered, the Hunger Artist practically committed suicide. However, he was dying for the people like Christ. He was sacrificing himself. Christ sacrificed himself for the good of God, while the Hunger Artist did it for an “art”, the only thing he knew, which is similar to Christ.

Some of the Biblical allusions in the Hunger Artist include the two women and the watchers who represent “God” and “the wilderness”. The Hunger Artist was tempted to eat food by the watchers and the women but he never broke. He kept his resilience and remained unbroken. The cage of the Hunger Artist can be compared to Christ on the cross as a state of imprisonment, shame, lack of freedom, although the obvious contrast is the cross was much more significant and attributed to death and holiness while the cage reverts to animalism and barbarianism.

Animals are important to the Hunger Artist and represent “science” and “forces of nature”. When the Hunger Artist is taken to the circus, he is placed near the animal cages, and he doesn’t get much attention. Everyone wants to see the animals. The fate of the Hunger Artist as opposed to the fate of Christ is quite different in that the Hunger Artist wallows in self-pity. He pities himself for his actions. He feels like a miserable wretch. Christ is humble however the Hunger Artist is self-loathing while at the same time proud and narcissistic for he knows nobody can do better than him.

The resurrection of the Hunger Artist is an interesting comparison to Christ’s resurrection. While the Hunger Artist isn’t exactly “resurrected”, he is “replaced” by a wild panther that impresses the crowd so much that they don’t want to go home. Finally, from these nine points we conclude that the Hunger Artist bears a strong parallel to the figure of Christ in the Bible and therefore is taken as one of Kafka’s many parables. The parable is one of atheistic and modernist applications of the early twentieth century.

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Kafka’s Ape, Adaptive Behavior, and Our Status as Humans

May 27, 2019 by Essay Writer

In “A Report to an Academy,” the marvelous transformation of the fictional ape Rotpeter offers striking insight into human adaptive behavior, and blurs and then elucidates the differences between man and ape. The short story, written as a letter by Rotpeter, tells of the transition of Rotpeter from his ape existence to that of a human. Rotpeter is regarded as a marvel of nature, his many-thousand year evolution occurring in a mere five. His existence and actions are unique in their own right, and mirror many of the behaviors demonstrated by man. Rotpeter’s process of transformation is reflected, for example, in the adaptation of children to societal norms, or in the assimilation of immigrants into new lands. However, it must be noted that all adaptation entails a corresponding loss of freedom and identity – a baby loses his/her innocence and gains inhibitions once societal acclimation begins, and an immigrant must to an extent give up old culture and customs to commit to adapting to a new one. In many respects, Kafka’s ape’s thoughts and behaviors mimic human psychological desires, intentions, and choices. But in drawing these pronounced parallels between Rotpeter and mankind, Kafka doesn’t bring apes and humans closer together. Rather, he decisively separates the two, based on these same concepts of behavioral adaptation and freedom.

The concept of behavioral adaptation at the expense of identity is one that has been explored vastly in both history and literature, and one Kafka employs front-and-center in “A Report.” Indeed, much of Freudian thought concerns the concept of “ego emergence,” which states that the narcissistic qualities the mind contains will overcome any sense of identity or essence a human possesses, to maintain the welfare of the self. Thus, if this thought is to be believed, the human is at the most base level a narcissist, and will do anything for his or her own well-being. Rotpeter, having been captured from his ape existence in the jungles of Africa, faces two choices; remain in his ape state and face the zoo, a cage, and the loss of physical freedoms, or become a vaudeville stage actor with human mentality and behavior. Of course, Rotpeter chooses to pursue the latter, preserving his comfort and showing a striking ability to adapt to human life, largely forsaking his identity as an ape in the process.

Rotpeter’s behavior, which is initially very base in nature, most resembles that of the children in William Heward’s work Exceptional Children, a work which relates the behavior of special education children to the behaviors of other individuals. Specifically, Heward states that though the children may not be able to speak coherent sentences, or even feed themselves properly, they often demonstrate a (relative) remarkable ability to adapt to unconventional situations, which one would expect to confuse them further (Heward). Heward interpreted this behavior as being a triggered stress adaptation, and this interpretation can similarly describe Rotpeter’s “finding a way out” of his post-capture situation, or as Kafka would call it, “Ausweg.” This theme of finding Ausweg, which literally translates as “way out,” is central to interpreting human adaptive behavior. Ausweg, which can be seen as the escape from and betterment of one’s situation, is what every human lives for. It is a universal motivator. Indeed, a psychologist possessing a Freudian viewpoint would have interpreted the human seeking of Ausweg as further confirmation of mankind’s narcissistic nature.

One of Rotpeter’s specific behaviors, his imitation of those around him, sheds light on the manner in which humans, as well as animals, psychologically adapt to their surroundings. Imitation may be the highest form of flattery, but it is also a form of learning necessary for adaptation and survival. Children in the sensorimotor stage of development attempt to match the sounds, gestures, and facial expressions of an adult model – such as while playing peek-a-boo. Toddlers, for example, will imitate their parents by pretending to get ready for work or school (Meltzoff 29). Meanwhile, these same imitation skills are noticeably deficient in children with autism, rendering them incapable of reaching the same social acclimation as their peers (Wehner 44). In these roles, imitation helps transmit social norms and promote cultural development in children. This is very telling of imitation’s role as an integral human adaptive skill. In “A Report,” imitation is central to Rotpeter’s escape and self-preservation. It is the way he makes himself acceptable and companionable to the humans around him. It is natural behavior for man to imitate, even in the event that the imitation is distasteful. Rotpeter’s incidents in smoking, drinking, and spitting were all distasteful. However, all were important mimicries which helped him along his “way out.”

Like imitation, the cognitive theory of recapitulation (as differentiated from Ernst Haeckel’s biological recapitulation theory, now largely discredited) also plays a strong role in “A Report.” While imitation is a kind of social adaptation theory, recapitulation explores adaptation from a more evolutionary and educational perspective. Cognitive recapitulation is nicely summed-up by philosopher Herbert Spencer, who stated “If there be an order in which the human race has mastered its various knowledge, there will arise in every child an aptitude to acquire these kinds of knowledge in same order” (Spencer 5). Recapitulation theory thus sought to rapidly improve cognition and learning through a curriculum based on the evolutionary order of knowledge acquisition, and through severe discipline. Rotpeter’s method of behavioral adaptation exemplifies this theory; the first actions he learns are spitting, smoking, and drinking, indeed very base behaviors in humans. Additionally, although Rotpeter at first finds alcohol disgusting, severe discipline reverses his initial reaction. After being subjected to repeated punishment at the hands of a sailor for not drinking, he learns to tolerate alcohol. As opposed to social learning and imitation, recapitulation learning is based on concepts such as repetition, order, and punishment. The punishment in particular is representative of Freud’s take on learning through recapitulation.

Once insights into the natural human behavior Rotpeter exhibits have been made, the distinctions between man and ape begin to become clear. Earlier, it was posited that Rotpeter chose learning and adaptation for reason of preservation of physical freedom. However, it is apparent that for every step deeper into the world of humans Rotpeter takes, he is gaining physical freedom, but he is losing something vitally important – mental freedom. By entering civilization, he has submitted to the mental yoke that all humans wear, a yoke that constrains their behaviors and mannerisms. Subsequently, in the process of becoming civilized Rotpeter’s ties with the ape existence become nearly (though not quite) severed. This is where Kafka begins to draw the line between man and ape, a line that borders on psychological freedom. One can’t have both – to be human is to adapt to civilization and, hence, be less free.

Interestingly, Kafka demarcates this line between man and ape by, at first, blurring it. Rotpeter’s experience with alcohol exposes animal tendencies in the human as much as it showcases human learning in the ape. The punishment inflicted by the sailor upon Rotpeter, and the behavior of many of the crew members, is evident of a lower degree of mind. Indeed, the sailor who trained Rotpeter is said to later be admitted to a mental hospital. It may be said that at this point in the story the line between ape and human is quite blurry. As they each retain qualities of the other, which is which? The alcohol further reinforces this mix-up as a symbol of baseness and abandon. Indeed, here it is the ape who abstains from liquor, while the human does not. But if one looks hard enough the line begins to resolve itself; what finally characterizes the human is a high level of behavioral adaptation, seen here in the ape, while the characteristic of psychological freedom, what the ape has lost, is symbolized by human behavior under the influence of alcohol.

By the end of “A Report,” Rotpeter is neither fully human nor fully ape. He spends the day in the company of humans but sleeps with a “half-trained chimpanzee” by night (6). He has made an effort to learn to be human, but nevertheless it has been a forced career. And while he feels increasingly comfortable in the human world, the “gentle puff of air playing at his heels” (7) is a continual reminder of the life he has left forever. It is clear that although Rotpeter lives willingly within the confines of human civilization, he does not appreciate the yoke it imposes upon him. Through references to Rotpeter’s disorientation, and to his being caught between two worlds, Kafka again reminds us how man and animal are undeniably different in their levels of freedom and behavioral adaptation.

Finally, there exists a school of thought (in direct contradiction to Freud, although Kafka with his genius manages to incorporate both theories into one story seamlessly to illustrate a wider view of adaptation) that states that humans are limited in their ability to mentally adapt, largely by pre-determined genetic and physical constraints (Spencer). Rotpeter has indeed come a long way from his ape origins, but is it possible that he still retains some measure of them? Throughout the story the narrator appears very frank, asking for openness and speaking of handshakes, yet there is a sense of contrivance about his report. When all is said and done, Rotpeter does not really claim commonness with humans at all. Indeed, he ridicules the supposed physical freedom of human acrobats on a trapeze, implying it pales in comparison to the mental freedom of apes, and finally asserts that his report is only meant to impart knowledge, distancing himself from his audience. His emphatic statement, “I am from the Gold Coast” (1), further proves that he has not renounced his origins. It seems that howsoever Rotpeter may dress himself up as human, an ape is still an ape in his body, as well as in the deep evolutionary recesses of his mind, limiting his ability to completely adapt to civilization. Similarly, no matter how much a human may acclimate to a social constraint, he/she still retains elements of the freedom of the ape (in one form, we have seen, under the influence of alcohol). As Rotpeter states, “your life as apes, gentlemen…cannot be farther removed from you than mine is from me” (7).

In “A Report to an Academy,” Kafka succeeds masterfully in illuminating both obvious and subtle human adaptive behaviors through the medium of his ape. However, instead of drawing human closer to ape through these likenesses, “A Report” goes deeper and divides them on the twin concepts of behavioral acclimation and psychological freedom. As we have seen, one cannot exist without the other; a gain in one correspondingly offsets a loss in the other. Rotpeter resembles a human in behavior, but yet is not one, as part of him is still attached to a free ape state. By dealing with these two concepts in a humorous yet thorough light, Kafka has made a lasting contribution to the literature of what makes us human – a sense of behavioral adaptation that puts on our yoke of civilization, keeping us from experiencing unadapted psychological freedom.

Literature CitedHeward, William L.. Exceptional children: an introduction to special education. 6th ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Merrill, 2000. Print.Meltzoff, Andrew N.. “Peer Imitation By Toddlers In Laboratory, Home, And Day-care Contexts: Implications For Social Learning And Memory..” Developmental Psychology 29 (): 701-710. Print.Spencer, Herbert. Education: intellectual, moral, and physical.. Paterson, N.J.: Littlefield, Adams, 1963. Print.Wehner, Elizabeth. “Imitation performance in toddlers with autism and those with other developmental disorders.” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 44 (): 763-781. Print.

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The Hunger Artist as a Christ Like Figure

May 16, 2019 by Essay Writer

In A Hunger Artist by Franz Kafka, one can argue the character of the Hunger Artist is an absurdist anti-hero parallel to the heroic figure of Jesus Christ in the Holy Bible. The Hunger Artist is a narration of a “starving, dying art”, and one of the most relative interpretations for its time can be attributed to religion. Although Kafka was born Jewish and later devoted himself to atheism, he had no trouble alluding to things that were central to European society. That being said, “A Hunger Artist” is a Christ-like figure, or a martyr, as Kafka believed, who would absurdly devote himself to religion during the modernist age when there was a declining interest in religion.  

The story opens with “In the last decade, there has been a declining interest in hunger artists”, which possibly may be a reference to the rise of atheism in the nineteen twenties, supported by Kafka’s atheism. First, let’s define what it means to be a hunger artist. A hunger artist in this story is a “an artist who masochistically starves himself for the pleasure of others as an art form”, but could be extended metaphorically to mean “a starving artist of a dying art”. Either way, “starving or pleasing others as an art and suffering for it” or “doing what you want” all pertains to the conundrum of the modernist age where people don’t seem to care unless you are with the times.

Skepticism and uncertainty in the Hunger Artist can also be compared to Christianity. People doubted the Hunger Artist’s fasting just like people doubted Jesus Christ’s words. Those who truly believed would have to believe in the number of days that the Hunger Artist fasted even though it’s physically impossible for one to fast for that long. There’s also the question of the reliability of the narrator, as we question the word of the Bible. Is the Bible really the word of God? And did this narrator really know the Hunger Artist and follow him and know if he ate or not? Is he or she too proud to say anything?

The Hunger Artist’s period of fasting, forty days, alludes to Christ. However, the Hunger Artist chooses to go beyond the maximum period of fasting and fast much longer, which makes him a “Super-Christ” figure. Ironically, after he surpasses Christ, people lose interest in him for nobody can surpass Christ. Both Christ and the Hunger Artist were martyr characters. Both characters starved for many days. Both characters died merciless and painfully. While Christ was murdered, the Hunger Artist practically committed suicide. However, he was dying for the people like Christ. He was sacrificing himself. Christ sacrificed himself for the good of God, while the Hunger Artist did it for an “art”, the only thing he knew, which is similar to Christ.

Some of the Biblical allusions in the Hunger Artist include the two women and the watchers who represent “God” and “the wilderness”. The Hunger Artist was tempted to eat food by the watchers and the women but he never broke. He kept his resilience and remained unbroken. The cage of the Hunger Artist can be compared to Christ on the cross as a state of imprisonment, shame, lack of freedom, although the obvious contrast is the cross was much more significant and attributed to death and holiness while the cage reverts to animalism and barbarianism.

Animals are important to the Hunger Artist and represent “science” and “forces of nature”. When the Hunger Artist is taken to the circus, he is placed near the animal cages, and he doesn’t get much attention. Everyone wants to see the animals. The fate of the Hunger Artist as opposed to the fate of Christ is quite different in that the Hunger Artist wallows in self-pity. He pities himself for his actions. He feels like a miserable wretch. Christ is humble however the Hunger Artist is self-loathing while at the same time proud and narcissistic for he knows nobody can do better than him.

The resurrection of the Hunger Artist is an interesting comparison to Christ’s resurrection. While the Hunger Artist isn’t exactly “resurrected”, he is “replaced” by a wild panther that impresses the crowd so much that they don’t want to go home. Finally, from these nine points we conclude that the Hunger Artist bears a strong parallel to the figure of Christ in the Bible and therefore is taken as one of Kafka’s many parables. The parable is one of atheistic and modernist applications of the early twentieth century.  

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Absurdity, Masochism and Paradox: Unraveling Kafka’s “A Hunger Artist”

April 1, 2019 by Essay Writer

“For he alone knew, what no other initiate knew, how easy it was to fast. It was the easiest thing in the world.” – Kafka’s “A Hunger Artist” What does it mean to willfully fast, or to deny hunger, the most fundamental of human drives? The short story, “A Hunger Artist,” penned by Franz Kafka explores the absurdity of one man’s ability to fast indefinitely with unnatural ease. At the same time, his insatiable appetite for fame and success as the record-breaking hunger artist of his time is unmistakably contradictory to his physically starved state. Throughout the text, the futility of ascribing meaning to our lives is demonstrated by the masochistic and paradoxical nature of the Hunger Artist’s lifetime of fasting. The hunger artist, who paradoxically chooses to give his mortal life meaning by making fasting his profession, is able to go without the most basic of human comforts due to his masochistic convictions. To start, his goal to fast immeasurably is essentially a paradox, since forgoing food is incompatible with the human condition. Although the hunger artist feels “that there were no limits to his capacity for fasting,” (884), the only possible ending for this life story can be death by starvation. And yet, the hunger artist is bent on receiving the admiration of the public for his limitless fasting: “He was quite happy at the prospect of spending a sleepless night with such watchers..” (883). At the same time, Kafka writes, “Nothing annoyed the artist more than such watchers; they made him miserable,” (883). The unfounded “suspicions” of the watchers, which understandably upsets the hunger artist, is believed to be “a necessary accompaniment to the profession of fasting,” (883). In essence, his misery is also the cause for his happiness and vice versa. This twisted relationship with his audience, wherein his sense of validation is based on the reaction of the crowd, reveals a masochistic quality in our protagonist. His life’s work is based on deprivation, self-denial and degradation in the face of an audience. A once-eager audience soon grows restless after forty days, and needs time to refresh their enthusiasm, showing that the hunger artist’s happiness hinges on such fleeting capriciousness- a situation highlighting the absurdity of the world. As he strives to “become the record hunger artist of all time,” the hunger artist’s thoughts after each forty-day bout of fasting reveal his addictive personality- “Why stop fasting at this particular moment..? Why should he be cheated of the fame he would get for fasting longer..?”(884). This ever-lasting ambition to fast continuously, ignoring the fact that it is an unattainable goal of happiness, depicts the hunger artist as gaining gratification through pain and suffering. The final passage of the text, in describing the hunger artist’s death in such a trivial manner, becomes the ultimate commentary on the absurdity, or meaninglessness of life. By this point, the terribly misunderstood hunger artist has fallen out the public’s favor and has resorted to becoming a circus freak. Here, his goal in impressing the public is literally insurmountable, for no one goes to the circus for high art. Set up in a cage as an eyesore alongside the main-show attraction of lively beasts, this is where the hunger artist accomplishes his longest-ever fast and consequently perishes. At long last, he has succeeded in a record-breaking bout of fasting, and the ultimate irony of this is that no one would know; they are too distracted by the animals. More so, the death of the hunger artist is dealt with fleetingly, insultingly so; his body is cleared and immediately a “young panther” is put in. The relative insignificance of the hunger artist’s entire life of drawn-out misery is compounded by Kafka’s narration, “Even the most insensitive felt it refreshing to see this wild creature leaping around the cage that had so long been dreary,” (889). As the hunger artist’s death is eclipsed by the hasty replacement of a “young panther,” the artist soon fades into obscurity. His imagined journey to greatness, the meaning he has given to life through fasting, has been futile. Kafka represents the Hunger Artist as a tragic hero plummeting to his inevitable demise through the paradox of his lifetime artistry in fasting. The hunger artist, in his commitment to artistry, loses all control over his humanity- throughout his career, he has been handled like “a wild animal” (885) by the impresario. The hunger artist experiences alienation from society not just spatially but temporally as well. Stationed in a barred cage, he is physically isolated from the spectators. Temporally, the hunger artist has lost the human grasp of time, which is evidenced by his voracious appetite for even more prolonged fasting. His hunger for success only grows infinitely, even when the world moves on from the fad of “professional fasting,” (882). His masochistic tendencies, in deriving satisfaction from self-denial, are simply an indication of his disjunction from society. While it seems illogical for his happiness to be so dependent on the whims of a faceless crowd, Kafka develops fully the hopelessness of our protagonist’s attempts to ascribe meaning to his life through the metaphor of hunger and appetite.

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Art Versus Life in A Hunger Artist

March 15, 2019 by Essay Writer

In his short story “A Hunger Artist,” Franz Kafka uses the extreme example of the fictional hunger artist to discuss the dichotomy between art and life. Usually, an artist uses his life to create his art. Thus, an artist alienated from the world will use his art to represent alienation, which ironically might bring him closer to the world. Kafka did this by writing about his sentiments of isolation and frustrations with society in stories such as “The Metamorphosis” and his novel The Trial. By writing these stories, Kafka expressed some of his disappointment with the world, and leaves it to his audience to analyze them as such. In this cycle, the artist channels his problems into art to manage his difficulties, and the audience accepts the art, providing the artist social acceptance and relief from solitude. Kafka sheds light on this healthy cycle by portraying the production of art in “A Hunger Artist,” in which the artist’s creation of art does not lead to a positive cycle, because his suffering begets suffering. His desire to be an artist is explained via “his inner dissatisfaction” (246) with the world. The hunger artist does not starve himself because he believes starvation to be a respected art form, but “because I couldn’t find the food I liked” (255). Instead of channeling his problems into creating art, the hunger artist uses himself as canvas and personifies his dissatisfaction, which leads to a lack of separation between artist and art. Without such a separation, the hunger artist depends entirely on the audience’s appreciation in order for the piece to function. In fact, “nothing annoyed the artist more than” the night watchers who paid little attention to him, giving him ample time to sneak food, and “much more to his taste were the watchers who sat close up to the bars…who focused him in the full glare of the electric pocket torch” (245). The artist turns to his audience for approval, and would do, “anything at all to keep [these watchers] awake and demonstrate…that he was fasting as not one of them could fast” (245). He must prove himself to the audience by showing his talent and gaining its approval, and only then, when he is “honored by the world” (249), can the hunger artist consider himself accomplished. However, the more the artist fasts, the more the audience disbelieves he actually does so, which causes him further suffering and leads to a negative smaller cycle within the already detrimental larger cycle of the hunger artist’s production. Although the hunger artist mainly receives negative feedback from the audience, he is only able to live because the audience pays him attention. This point is more obvious when, “the interest in professional fasting…markedly diminished” (243), which eventually leads to the hunger artist’s demise, since no one takes an active interest in his life, allowing him to starve to death. The hunger artist is not closer to the world through his creation process, but finds he can only even survive by creating art and having the audience view it. Instead of using art as an expression of his life, the hunger artist uses his art to live. Thus, he has no life outside of his art. Through the hunger artist, Kafka defines the dangers of depending on art for life. The hunger artist expresses his dissatisfaction with the world by using himself and not an external canvas to create his artwork, forcing a lack of separation between the artist and his art. Therefore, instead of the art depending on the audience, the artist depends on the audience, meaning when the audience’s appreciation for the work dwindles, their appreciation for the artist diminishes as well, leading to the hunger artist’s death. In this work, Kafka provides a prime example of how not to create art, and somewhat resolves the conflict between art and life. Kafka demonstrates that the artist must separate himself from his work by channeling creating something external from the self. Thus, the artist will not be as critically dependent on his work for survival.

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