A Hunger Artist

Misunderstanding must be exposed and handled accordingly in order for understanding to occur Throughout the short story, “A Hunger Artist”, misunderstanding often created a separation of artist from society. Franz Kafka uses various literary elements and devices such as symbols and conflict to demonstrate this theme. One way that Franz Kafka explicitly displays misunderstanding in “A Hunger Artist” is through his use of symbolism. Throughout the work, the hunger artist was locked inside of a cage to isolate himself from the fickle public. This cage represents alienation from society and also a barrier that prevents understanding.

The spectators’ positions outside of the cage prevent them from truly appreciating the hunger artist’s feat and often times causes those to misunderstand the concept of “art” that the hunger artist is attempting to exhibit. In the artist’s case, being an artist means cutting oneself off from the world and this is reflected in the artist’s conscious choice to sequester, or seclude, himself in a cage.

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The physical separation of hunger artist and spectator that the cage creates mirrors the spiritual separation of the individual artistic ego and public will.

This separation in mindset leads to a critical dividend in understanding in which only the hunger artist realizes the importance of his ambitions and accomplishments. In regard to the artist’s behavior, the impresario would apologize as stated, “He would apologize publicly for the artist’s behavior, which was only to be excused, he admitted because of the irritability caused by fasting; a condition hardly to be understood by well-fed people” (Kafka 3). Spectators often misinterpreted the point that the hunger artist was attempting to portray. The purpose of the cage was to secure him from those who do not understand him.

Another way that Kafka demonstrates misunderstanding is through his use of external conflict. The hunger artist’s troubled relationships with his spectators suggest that the artist exists apart from society and must therefore be misunderstood since the spectators do not perceive art in the same sense that the hunger artist does. This conflict ultimately occurs on more than one occasion throughout the text. The artist does not want to be rewarded with materialistic contributions and/or praise from the public; he finds the greatest reward in others’ understanding of art from his perspective.

The public pretend to admire the hunger artist’s accomplishments merely because they do not understand the true concept of art that the artist is striving to convey. Kafka states, “His public pretended to admire him so much, why should it have so little patience with him; if he could endure fasting longer, why shouldn’t the public endure it? ” (2). The fickle public that the hunger artist encounters does not pay him as much attention as he expected. The public are glad to finally see the artist stop his fasting so they are able to proceed on with their lives; they don’t show much interest in the art of fasting.

In an article, Ian Johnston translates, “In the last decades interest in hunger artists has declined considerably…Back then the hunger artist captured the attention of the entire city. From day to day while the fasting lasted, participation increased” (Franz Kafka A Hunger Artist). This explicitly expresses the reason why the public show no interest in the hunger artist’s fasting. An art that was greatly appreciated before has now died down and is not trendy. The hunger artist’s attempts to gain the public’s recognition of the true concept of the art of fasting have failed.

From reading the short story, “A Hunger Artist”, one can gain the concept of how important it is to expose misunderstanding before true understanding can develop. Whether it be with an in-depth look at art or simply a misunderstanding between two people, developing an understanding is vital. The reason for misunderstanding must be addressed and handled accordingly prior to proceeding in the process of understanding. Works Cited Kafka, Franz. A Hunger Artist. Prague: Twisted Spoon Press, 1996. N. pag. Print. Yancey, Phillip. Good Reads.

N. p. , n. d. Web. 20 Mar. 2013. <http://www. goodreads. com/quotes/tag/misunderstanding>. “Understanding. ” Def. 2a. Merriam-Webster. n. d. N. pag. Web. 20 Mar. 2013. <http://www. merriam-webster. com/dictionary/understanding>. Johnston, Ian. “Franz Kafka: The Metamorphosis, A Hunger Artist, In the Penal Colony, and Other Stories. ” Arlington, Virginia: Richer Resources Publications, 2009. N. pag. Web. 11 May 2013. <http://www. richerresourcespublications. com/Books/Classic_Books/Philosophy/Kafka/Franz_Kafka. pdf>.

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