Hunger Artist Essay, Research Paper
In life there are many codes that define us as individuals and as a society. In order to further discuss the code we must first establish the definition and nature of a code and what it entails. It is an unspoken oath to an idea or way of life to which we feel dedicated and devoted. The way we are influenced by our surroundings and the way we react or feel we are supposed to react to them are a result of our interpretation of that code. While the code is artistic at the same time it is cruel. It can embody its disciple with such an overwhelming grip that they feel they can never get out of its cage. The misinterpretation of the code is easily achieved. In the case of the Hunger Artist, the code of his artistic ability to fast produces self-enlightenment to insight. As a result it reveals to him his hunger is for answers. It reveals self-definition for him as an artist and as a man. Furthermore it reveals to him his hypocrisy and fraudulence. All of which leave him feeling unsatisfied and hungry.
His hunger for answers is his journey for truth and meaning in life. He needs to feel accomplishment and self worth but is faced with the sad but true fact that no one will give him the recognition he feels he so rightly deserves. He wants answers to why the crowds of people and the impresario can never praise him enough even if he has the perfect setting and time to fast for as long as he desires. ? 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 225) He feels as though he?s being cheated of his opportunity to be the greatest faster thus far in history. The harsh reality of the fact is that he knows this cloak of fame could never render the satisfaction he needs to fill the hunger in his life. No matter how long he fasts he will still be left feeling empty, unadmired, and unsatisfied because of their lack of understanding and the ?failure of the public to recognize the validity of his achievement.? (Mitchell 242) ? He was therefore bound to be the sole completely satisfied spectator of his own fast. Yet for other reasons he was never satisfied. ? (Kafka 221)
Never satisfied because of the way fasting makes him feel as an artist and as a man. He never receives the pat on the back saying well done which leaves him feeling like an inadequate failure. And when they do tell him they admire him his guilt, from knowing the truth about how easy it is to fast, leaves him feeling admired for the wrong reasons. ? I always wanted you to admire my fasting, but you shouldn?t admire it because I have to fast, I can?t help it.? (Kafka 226) His feeling of underachievement leaves him searching for someone to blame. Someone must be the cause of this suffering. At first he points to anything and everyone who stands in the way of his rightful ownership to glory from his honorable work. Later to be admitted that this pain and suffering is self chosen and indeed not honorable because of the mask of hypocrisy and fraudulence behind which he has been hiding.
Hiding because of the fear to accept the truth about his artistic ability and the reality of how easy it is for him to perform the task of fasting. While others say they admire him for his phenomenal acts of self-discipline through fasting, he knows that ?the unnatural is natural to him, and the hunger artist is troubled by his hypocrisy.? (Norris179) He knows that the task of fasting is not artistic in his case because of the nature of the motive and its simplicity. His dedication to the code has him trapped inside himself. Trapped inside the cage of his own hypocrisy and fraudulence, which leaves him with a feeling of eternal hunger. Eternal hunger for the quest to find the soul food he desires and to find the answer to why he will never find the satisfaction he is looking for to make him whole. This hypocrisy and fraudulence of lying to himself has him very troubled inside. ? But in his dimming eyes remained the firm though no longer proud persuasion that he was still continuing to fast.? (Kafka 226) Even as he is dying he is troubled with the fact that he still hasn?t found the food he likes and is left to die feeling no longer proud for the persuasion of his hypocrisy and fraudulence. His deceitfulness to himself has robbed him of any chance for satisfaction and accomplishment in life.
As a result of these insights he comes to the realization of the unproud fact of why he will always be hungry and never be able to find the food he likes. Fasting is his search for hunger; his hunger for answers. Not the answers to why can?t I find the food I like, but why can?t I feel satisfied with myself? Why can?t I fill the hunger I have in my life? I can?t find the soul food I am looking for to be satisfied. Answers to questions which he already knows the answer but does not want to accept because of the reality of their validity. The search to discover that he can?t find the soul food he likes leaves him always looking ahead to a place where he will achieve what he wants. If only he could just do a little more he would be satisfied. But tragically enough this is something he will never achieve. He will never be able to get enough or feel enough accomplishment for the fraudulent task he has trapped himself in performing. While fasting is something he feels he must perform, because of his dedication to the code, it will never satisfy his hunger. He feeds off of fasting, but will always have to keep eating because he can never get enough food. His appetite will never be satisfied; never satisfied because he is eating off of an empty plate.
Kafka, Franz, comp. A Hunger Artist: The Riverside Anthology of Literature Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company 1997 220-227.
Mitchell, Breon, comp. Kafka and the Hunger Artists: Kafka and the Contemporary Critical Performance Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987 236-255.
Norris, Margot, comp. Sadism and Masochism ?In the Penal Colony? and ?A Hunger Artist?: Reading Kafka New York: Schocken Books,1989. 170-186.