The Hunger Artist

7 July 2016

Does Kafka’s Hunger Artist create a new sense of the body? If so, how? And how does the Hunger Artist’s strange human body compete against animals’ bodies in this story? Create a clear and direct overall thesis and argue. ! Kafka’s “ A Hunger Artist”, illustrates a compelling reinvention of the body through the story of a single act in a circus where a man goes forty days without the consumption of food in efforts to horrify his audience. Kafka’s story portrays the artist’s internal con? icts as he faces his own addiction to starvation, with the external destruction of the artist’s withering body.

As the story develops, the hunger artist becomes less of a spectacle to the audience and more of an unrelatable freak and is eventually replaced, ironically, with a healthy young panther. Kafka’s “A Hunger Artist” exposes the fundamental will to defy traditional human convention, by de? ning a new sense of the body as the power of the mind through characterizing a basic need as a common desire. Kafka contrasts the artist’s diminished body with an ordinary panther that presents the spectators with a symbol of life and complete ful? llment.

The Hunger Artist Essay Example

The hunger artist is able to construe a contemporary sense of body with his indifference to temptation and neglecting to be glutinous, therefore pushing his mind farther then his body. The artist also shapes the new sense of body through building on the idea that there is a distinct difference between desire and need. In articulating this distinction, the artist creates a paradox based on the idea that by desiring nothing, he will be ful? lled. Kafka takes the human body to new extremes and pushes the hunger artist to the boundaries of desire, rede? ning the traditional sense of body.

The hunger artist was genuine about his form of art and fully immersed himself into fasting. The hunger artist was constantly bomb-barred with the allurement of food, however,“the initiates knew well enough that during his fast the artist would never in any circumstances, not even under forcible compulsion, swallow the smallest morsel of food” (Kafka 223). The artist is able to displace his biological hunger, with his hunger to push himself to the limits. Throughout the story, the artist has many opportunities to break his performance, after all “no one could possibly watch [him] continuously, day and night” (Kafka 224).

The hunger artist is his own spectator and wants nothing more but to see him  nish his act, but “[feels] that there [are] no limits to his capacity for fasting” (Kafka 225). The Hunger artist’s is determined to surpass all expectations over rides his gluttonous temptations. Kafka goes on to compare the human artists emancipated body with his replacement, the young panther. The panther, unlike the hunger artist, “[was brought] the food he liked” (Kafka 231) whereas the hunger artist was aiming for a lifetime of grati? cation rather then instant temporary food ful? llment.

The story unravels to reveal the artist “was never satis? ed”(Kafka 224) even after completing his forty day fast. Kafka describes the artist feeling resentment towards the public questioning “ if he could endure fasting longer, why shouldn’t the public endure it? ” (225). The audience “began to lose interest, sympathetic support began to fall off”(Kafka 225) yet the artist was not ful? lled by himself like much of the spectators were. Kafka explains the artist “couldn’t ? nd the food [he] liked. If [he] has found it, believe me, [he would] have made no fuss and stuffed [himself] like you or anyone else” (Kafka 231).

To the public, the artist seems to have considerable amounts of self control, however, what the public neglects to see is his true talent, determination. The artist is able to clearly separate his needs and desire and has been indifferent towards food for he has yet to ? nd something he desires. One thing he desires is to push himself farther and farther into his addiction to starvation. The artist felt“he was working honestly, but the world was cheating him of his reward”(Kafka 230). The audience only saw the artist as an old, lifeless man with no ambition.

The artist’s internal buzz was masked by his deteriorating body. The young panther who replaced the artist was full of life and was whole, which contrasted the artist. The one thing the artist desired more left him dying “no longer proud persuasion that he was still continuing to fast”(Kafka 231). The panther lived everyday in full harmony, ? lling his wishes day by day. The hunger artist understood he needed only to live to have what he desired. Besides living, the artist needed no other form of comfort, knowing each day he was getting closer to his wish, which was comfort enough.

By establishing his needs and desires, the artist creates a new sense of body, one where needs and desires are driven harmonically.  The panther had “seemed to carry freedom around with it; somewhere in his jaws it seemed to lurk; and the joy of life streamed with such ardent passion from his throat that for the onlookers it was not easy to stand the shock of it” (Kafka 231) whereas the artist “merely staring into vacancy with half shut eyes, now and then taking a sip from a tiny glass of water to moisten his lips” (Kafka 223).

The panther and the artist, both are trying to achieve their wishes. The panther doing so in a traditional materialistic manor and the artist rede? ning the ordinary sense of body by attempting to achieve his wish of absolute nothing. The artist displays the enormous efforts he must go through to achieve his dreams, and through all of his efforts the artist is able to show how one can manipulate themselves to go places they have never gone before.

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