Franz Kafka’s modernist short story “The Hunger Artist” follows the plight of a man who is simply referred to as the “Hunger Artist”; a man who is know for practicing the art of fasting for long periods of time. Throughout the story the hunger artist remains alone within his cage, completely cut off from the world that surrounds him. Although the hunger artist’s isolation and starvation appear to be self-imposed, it is ultimately revealed that the hunger artist was unable to find public, material, or spiritual nourishment that he craved, which led to his isolation and eventual demise.
The hunger artist’s initial conflict is with the spectators that come to view him while he is fasting. These onlookers see him as “merely a joke, something they participated in because it was fashionable.” The carnival then went as far as to limit the amount of days that the hunger artist could fast, infringing upon his ability to properly practice his art form. The hunger artist found it “impossible to fight against this lack of understanding, against ‘the’ world of misunderstanding,” leading him and the general public to stop keeping track of the number of days that he had fasted. Throughout all of this, the hunger artist’s cage acts as the barrier between himself and society, keeping those who do not understand him separated from him. Although it may be argued that the hunger artist chose this isolation, he later reveals that the reason he did not eat is because he “couldn’t find a food which tasted good to ‘him’.” It is apparent that the hunger artist did seek to find some sort of acceptance of his art within society, but the public just viewed him as a joke. These feelings of isolation then forced him to separate himself from society, using the cage as a barrier between him and those who were unable to understand him.
The hunger artist not only is isolated from society, but also from material things. The hunger artist lives his life devoid of any material...
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