Hunger in Hunger Artist Real or Fiction?

Hungerin Hunger Artist Real or Fiction?

Theshort story “AHunger Artist”is regarded as one of the best works ever drafted by Kafka Franz andthe most powerful narrations ever written. Published for the firsttime in 1922 in the periodical Die Neue Rundschau, and later includedas the title of Kafka’s short story collection, the book was thelast one printed by the same author. The story explores a number ofthemes that include art, death, isolation, spiritual poverty,asceticism, and personal failure among others. An interesting topicin the story that appears rhetorical raising the need for adiscussion regards whether the hunger in “AHunger Artist”is real or fiction. Therefore, using ethos, logos, and pathos, thispaper will present a literary analysis of the short story “A HungerArtist” and respond to the question of whether hunger in the storyreal or fiction.

Thestarting point for finding a response to the inquiry of hunger in “AHunger Artist”is the difference between real life and fiction. The short story isdescribed as a work of imagination that involves characters doingthings that the normal people would not think of or attempt to do inreal life. The story is told retrospectively to a period whenattention on the spectacle of people with the capability to fast forseveral days was passionate. An overview of the short story shows acommencement with an overall account of the “hunger artist” as anactor and subsequently a protagonist. The performance occurred withthe hunger artist depicted in a cage surrounded by curious onlookers.The teams of watchers who attended to him ensured that he never ateanything in secret. However, despite the precautions taken by theonlookers, they were convinced that the hunger artist cheated. Thesuspicions annoyed him the same way he was unhappy with the forty-daylimit that had been imposed on his fasting by the “impresario” orpromoter. His promoter insisted that public sympathy for the hungerartist unavoidably declined at the completion of the forty days.Nonetheless, the hunger artist found the phase indiscriminate andannoying because it prevented him from pounding his individual recordand fast indeterminately. At the completion of the fast, despite thetheatrical fanfare, the hunger artist would be removed from his cageas well as forced to eat, acts that he resented (ADA 2).

Factsfrom the story indicate that the hunger artist put up performancesthat were always followed by recuperation intervals undertaken forseveral years. In fact, if the observer examining his palpablemelancholy attempted to console him, the hunger artist would respondwith fury. The promoter is recorded to have responded to this fury byapologizing to the crowd and stating that irritability was as aresult of fasting. Through his actions, the promoter managed to showthat the hunger artist was sad because of fasting. The irony of thisinterpretation was that the hunger artist perceived his sadness to beas a result of not being allowed to fast indefinitely. Up to thispoint, the author argues that hunger still appears as a reality inthe story “AHunger Artist”given that the character is on a performance with an audiencewatching him day and night (Kafka 12).

Theauthor depicted the hunger artist as being in the performance of“hungering.” The predicament of the hunger artist was that in hisperformance he refused to eat and furthermore, could not discover anyfood that he liked. He is recorded to be living at a time when whatsatisfied people no longer did, and thus has to look for what hewants or would satisfy him. He was never contented, and Kafka recordshim as always looking for the food that would help nurture him. Thehunger, in this case, appears to be fiction or starvation. The factthat he was looking for food that he liked and would nurture himimplies that the hunger was not real. A majority of artists haveconcurred that the short story is an allegory (Steinhauer 28).Similar works that have employed the same theme in presenting ameaning include the “The Metamorphosis” by the same author, andBartleby the Scrivener” drafted by Herman. Besides, most peopleregard “AHunger Artist”by Kafka as an allegory of the ascetic saint and the artist. Theother similar works provide evidence to support the interpretation ofthe story as an allegory and the hunger in “AHunger Artist”as fiction.

Ona factual basis, extreme fasting has always been applied as a form ofprotest by a majority of cultures. At the beginning of time, thesuffragettes used the hunger strikes as a way of protesting in anattempt to fight for the rights of women. For instance, MahatmaGandhi hunger strike has been regarded as being an important tacticthat helped resist against the Britain to gain Indian independence. Several protesters in the developed republics have optioned to fastor live in the temporary shanty towns to seek the attention of thewealthy nations to act and assist the poor and war-stricken nations.Besides, extreme fasting has also been part of many religioustraditions that profess the Christian faith. This has applied mainlyto the nun and monks found in the middle east and the otherreligions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism. Another act that has beenregarded as related to hunger, but a form of performance isself-starvation. These acts have a common ground, which is the linkto hunger. The reality of the hunger in “AHunger Artist”diminishes with time as the audience loses interest in watching thehunger artist. The timing of the fasting is also not real given thatthe clock on the cage is not clocking but only moving by one number,to signify an elapse of time (Kafka 16).

Anemotional bit of the hunger artist is that he holds on to his hungerup to the end of the story hoping that the act will eventually leadto spiritual satisfaction. However, his hunger leaves him empty interms of physical strength and appearance as well as spiritually.While he objects to eating any food and even becomes furious whentaken to eat, the action reveals his desire for artistic perfectionand public recognition deeply entrenched within himself. Whereas thehunger artist manages to put up a performance with his promoter, henever flourishes in fasting indefinitely, and this failure makes himdissatisfied. His emotions are displayed through dissatisfaction inachieving indefinite fasting and getting the spiritual nourishment.Apparently, what he is yarning for, the real audience cannot givehim. However, recognition by the public and artistic perfection couldas well be realized through other means rather than starvation orindefinite hunger.


ADA.AHunger Artist.ADA, n.d. Web. 3 July 2016.

Kafka,Franz. AHunger Artist.New York: ShebaBlake Publishing.

Kafka,Franz and Joyce Crick. A HungerArtist and Other Stories.Britain: Ritchie Robertson.

Steinhauer,Harry. HungeringArtist or Artist in Hungering: Kafka`s&quotA Hunger Artist.&quotCriticism,4. 1 (1962): 28-43.