The Question of Glory of Death and Sacrifice in A Hunger Artist

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The meaning of being an artist is said to be someone who creates and is skilled. In “The Hunger Artist” by Franz Kafka, the hunger artist believed that he was talented and that he deserved to be glorified and have the fame that came with being an artist. The artist catches the audience's attention, but it was not long until he loses that same attention he got at the beginning. This talent would not have been popular today mostly because it was a trend and like all trends, they all come to an end. The hunger artist is not a true artist, he did not sacrifice or put much effort into this so-called talent of his. Therefore, he did not receive the appreciation that he desired towards what he did and died trying to get the glory he felt he deserved.

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The hunger artist was popular at the beginning of the story. His popularity was not because he was much of an entertainer, since basically he just sat in a cage, although the audience did not see it that way yet, “Everybody wanted to see him at least once a day, there were people who bought season tickets for the last few days and sat from morning till night in front of his small barred cage” (Kafka 319). People enjoyed watching him, because to the audience, it was not something that could be done by many. The audience sometimes got a little more entertainment on long nights, when they would get close to the cage, the hunger artist would tell jokes and even tell stories of his life, “He was quite happy at the prospect of spending sleepless nights with such watchers; he was ready to exchange jokes with them, to tell them stories out of his nomadic life” (Kafka 320). This act was probably one of the few entertainments that he provided to the audience, but it was all coming from a good place. The hunger artist appreciated the people that watched him day and night so much that he would have a breakfast ready for them as a way to show his appreciation, “His happiest moment was when the morning came and enormous breakfast was brought them” (Kafka 320). The artist felt the need to show his appreciation to those who watched him for the long amount of days that he would fast, and it was for his own sake to not lose their attention towards him. He wanted acceptance and appreciation for his “talent” that he would want to fast for longer and not just for forty days, “The longest period of fasting was fixed by his impresario at forty days, beyond that term, he was not allowed to go” (Kafka 320). Yet, the artist was not allowed to go beyond the forty days because it could cause the audience to lose interest. The artist wanted to show that he could go on for longer, so they could glorify him for going beyond record limits as well as his own. After the forty days, he was cut off from fasting, “Then came the food, a little of which he impresario managed to get between the artist’s lips, while he sat in a kind of half-fasting trance” (Kafka 321). The artist was not happy about this at all; fasting for a longer period would not have saved his career and it would not have kept the audience's attention. What the hunger artist had yet to realize, is his “talent” was not merely enough entertaining to keep the audience wanting to come back and see him some more.

Further down in the story the audience started losing their interest towards the artist, and that was because he was performing a trend that was starting. The hunger artist would not have been popular today as it was in the time period of the story, “It used to pay very well to stage such great performances under one’s own management, but today that is quite impossible” (Kafka 319). Fasting was new to them, but if that “performance” was done in this period there would not be an audience, in today's day, people fast as a religious act or a diet. They fast as a way to get closer to God, to help them see what they have, be grateful and appreciate everything they have that some people wish they did. Other people perform fasting as a fast way to lose weight, it lowers one’s calorie intake as well as burning calories slower. One of the main reasons why the artist lost the interest of the audience was because they believed that he was cheating and sneaking in food, “No one could possibly watch the hunger artist continuously, day and night, and no one could produce first-hand evidence that the fast had really been rigorous and continuous; only the artist himself could know that” (Kafka 320). There was no way of proving to the audience that he was not cheating and there was no way other way he could hold their attention for any longer. The hunger artist did not have much choice but to join a circus all he wanted was to be noticed and appreciated, “So, he took a leave of the impresario, his partner in an unparalleled career, and hired himself to a large circus” (Kafka 323). He had no idea that by making this decision to save his career it actually did not help it. The audience would go to the circus to see the animals perform in the ring. On their way to their seats they would merely glance to see what was in the cage, but not have enough interest to stay and watch the hunger artist. The hunger artist soon realized he had became foot traffic and he had little to no attention. By him not receiving the attention he wanted his self esteem was deeply hurt, so much that he even forgot how long he has gone without eating. The hunger artist felt unappreciated and unmotivated because his life work of him not eating was no longer the center of attention.

Many would consider the hunger artist to be heroic, but to be an artist it means to sacrifice and put effort into his talent. As an artist one must pay their dues, by doing so it helps one understand and realize why we love to perform. The artist did not do much to understand what it was like to be a true artist the main thing that he was after was the fame and glory. He believed that the audience and circus cheated him from the fame he thought he deserved, “perhaps, said the hunger artist to himself many a time, things would be a little better if his cage were set not quite so near the menagerie” (Kafka 324). The hunger artist just did not understand why his audience was not devoted to his commitment to fasting as he was. At the end of the story, leading up to his death, we find out that he would have fasted regardless because he was a picky eater and did not like food, “Because I couldn't find the food I liked. If a had found it, believe me, I should have made no fuss and stuffed my face like you or anyone else” (Kafka 325). The hunger artist said his last words and died, without a heroic act, fame, or glory. He was very much a cheat; he did not do much to deserve the very little attention he did get and that is why he did not get the glory he was hungry for. To receive the type of fame the hunger artist wanted he had to be willing to do more with the audience, he had to interact with them; which was not happening with him just sitting in that cage.

The hunger artist would not be considered an artist because he did not sacrifice much to be one, as a result, the audience lost interest, and there was no glory to his death. He went from a very trendy trend at the beginning to becoming foot traffic at a circus; not merely getting enough glances towards him to feel acknowledged. Insted the hunger artist self esteem was hurt and he admitted that he was a cheat, his career was just a life choice because he could not find food that he liked.

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