Suffering in Regards to Success

Suffering is a human condition that cannot be ignored. Franz Kafka’s “The Hunger Artist” is about a man who starves himself for the entertainment of others and makes money for it. Borges’ “The Circular Ruins” is about a man who endures many days of only sleep to create his masterpiece: the perfect man. Susan Sontag’s On Photography is about photographers who put themselves in harm’s way to take the perfect photograph. In examining these three works, it becomes clear that Kafka, Borges and Sontag all illustrate the idea that there needs to be suffering in order to create the ideal of success for each character.
The characters in each of these pieces go through some sort of suffering: the hunger artist starves himself, the man in Borges’ story sleeps all the time to painstakingly create his son and the photographer puts himself or herself into dangerous situations. The core of success for the hunger artist is his fasting. He is suffering to gain that which he desires, which is admiration. The hunger artist sees his fasting as a measure of his own worth leading him to say every time, “[w]hy stop fasting at this particular moment, after forty days of it? … [W]hy stop not when he [is] in his best fasting form”(Kafka)? This story is slightly different from the other stories because the fasting is what gives the fasting artist the feeling of success but also at the same time he is suffering because of the fasting. The two are very closely intertwined in his mind. Like the hunger artist in Kafka’s story, the dreamer in Borges’s story “Under the pretext of pedagogical necessity, he drew out the hours of sleep more everyday.”(Borges); so he lost the wakeful hours that he could be doing other things with his life. He suffers through the painstaking hours of sleep spent creating his son, organ by organ and constantly trying to perfect it . He also suffers by losing the time that he spent creating his son. That sacrifice of time and effort can never be returned. The photographers also suffers in their own way because they cannot intervene with the natural order of things. “While real people are out there killing themselves or other real people, the photographer stays behind his or her camera”(Sontag). They have no recourse to help the people that are being photographed. Despite the fact that they can help the person in the photograph, it is a distinct choice between helping the person in the photograph and ruining the picture that they wanted to create in the first place; they are torn by that decision constantly.
As a result of the characters’ suffering, they create their own definition of success: the hunger artist is admired, the dreamer creates the perfect man, and the photographer is lauded for his efforts. The hunger artist wants to be admired so when he fasts “[t]he excitement mount[s]; everybody wanted to see him at least once a day; there were people who bought season tickets for the last few days”(Kafka). He created his own definition of success by gaining the admiration and fame that he wanted. The fasting that he suffered brought the admiration, but he was still not satisfied with his fasting and wanted to continue to fast despite clear evidence that it would not continue to bring him admiration. Similarly, the dreamer wants to create the perfect man in his head so that the god can bring him to life and when that was completed; “[h]is life’s goal had been accomplished; the man lived on now in a sort of ecstasy”(Borges). He created the thing that was most important to him, his son, and that was enough success for the dreamer. The son was created detail by detail then sent out into the world. This creates both a sense of success and a feeling of loss for the man who dreamed up his son because he succeeded in creating his son. Yet, at the same time,  the son had to be sent out to another temple., which gave him a sense of loss.. The photographer created his or her sense of success through “[p]utting [himself or herself] into a certain relation to the world that feels like knowledge — and, therefore, like power”(Sontag). Power is something that we as humans inherently crave so placing oneself in a position of power can be seen as success. In our society right now to have power is to be successful, and to be rich is to be successful. In the case of the photographer, knowledge is power so they have the knowledge of the photograph and the subject so they have power within the photograph and how it portrays the subject. Each character has a different definition of success for themselves. This  is true of all people.
The characters in the writing each gain something from their period of suffering, the hunger artist gains fame, the dreamer gains a perfect son and the photographer gains power. Every success story also has a story of suffering to begin the story of success.

Mortality and Pleasure

Kafka’s “The Hunger Artist” is about a man who starves himself for the entertainment of others. He sees fame and adoration with his impresario but breaks off the connection and goes to work for the circus when the impresario won’t let him fast for more that forty days at a time. At the circus he places himself next to the menagerie and dies of starvation. That the hunger artist starves himself for the pleasure of others touches on our human desire to gain immortality through enduring commendation and fame and the innate sense of morbidity that fascinates the human mind.

.  The reader can apply the hunger artist’s relentless pursuit of immortality through lasting recognition to the real world. The hunger artist expresses his desire to be recognized when he works for the circus. He says, “At first he could hardly wait for the intervals; it was exhilarating to watch the crowds come streaming his way, until only too soon … without exception, were all on their way to the menagerie.”(Kafka). The hunger artist is slowly being forgotten and left all alone in his cage. He is no longer capable of achieving his dream of lasting commendation. He has melted away from the public eye, yes, despite this, he still craves attention and love. As he’s dying the hunger artist’s last words are “I always wanted you to admire my fasting … [b]ut you shouldn’t admire it … [b]ecause I have to fast, I can’t help it,’” displaying how desperately he craved admiration. This is the paradox between wanting to be admired and not feeling worthy of being admired. Kafka demonstrates to the reader  how people desire and cope with not achieving lasting fame and recognition.

Kafka’s narrative demonstrates through parable how the human race is enthralled with morbidity because it has yet to achieve immortality. This is demonstrated through the replacement of the hunger artist with a young panther. The hunger artist, his youth and vitality spent, is tossed aside carelessly and buried. When he is replaced by the young panther “even the most insensitive felt it refreshing to see this wild creature leaping around the cage that had so long been dreary”(Kafka). People came to see the hunger artist because they needed to watch a man dying in order to contemplate their own morbidity and short lived time. Eventually the mortality of the hunger artist becomes too much to bear to watch. The panther is young and healthy so people are content to watch the life drain away from the young panther. This is what fascinates us as a species, the aging and death of others.

Kafka’s short story shows the reader the mesmerizing inner nature of morbidity and pursuit of immortality through lasting recognition. This is revealed through the hunger artist’s replacement with the young panther after he dies and his constant need for attention and validation from the public. The inner human being is one that craves acceptance yet still sees others as people who are just going to die someday.

Example Analysis of Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk

  • The example of the wristwatch


In Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk, “Bring on the Learning Revolution”, he talks about how hard it is to change things through the following anecdot: e. Teens to not wear watches because they have never had to wear watches because it is a single function device that they didn’t need, whereas the generation before them wears a watch simply because when they were kids, to tell the time they had to wear a watch because it was before the digital age so they had to wear a watch to tell the time. This proves the point that just because we have a system doesn’t mean that we are going to innovate and create a new system. For the older generation innovating would be to stop wearing watches because it is a single function device but they have gotten into the habit of just wearing the watch even though there are other better ways out there to carry less things on your person.


  • The example of the fireman

In Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Speech, “Learning Revolution”, he advocates for a diverse educational system through the following anecdote. Robinson tells the story of someone that said he always wanted to be a ;fireman ,however one teacher ridiculed him for his choice. Recently he saved the teacher’s life who had doubted him. This the linear education system doesn’t work for everyone because society should be trying to get everyone’s talents to surface. That doesn’t happen when the education model is linear and doesn’t allow for the person to develop the talents that surface. For society to function it needs a variety of talents that the current model doesn’t provide.


  • The comparison of our educational model to a fast food model


In Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk, “Bring on the Learning Revolution”, he points out how we should be treating our students and how are treating our students through the following metaphor. The educational system is like the fast food place. They are trying to make the same thing as many times as possible as quickly as possible with the exact same technique for every kind of food. Our society should be treating education like a high end restaurant that doesn’t do the same thing for every plate of food. This metaphor shows how we are trying to make the same child over and over with the same ingredients and method. This assumes that every child is the same when in reality that is not the case so we should switch over to a high end restaurant model where every dish and ingredient is treated with the care it needs. To create a functioning society we have to not assume every child is the same and treat them like they are different in the classroom and give them each the care and nurturing that they need to succeed and blossom.

Jemma’s Analysis of Wideman’s A Man Walking in the Rain Eating a Banana

Wideman’s “Stories” has everything to do with interpretation. The text is interpreted by different people. Wideman’s story gives the reader insight into interpretation by writing through the definition of interpretation and writing with ambiguity so that the reader can determine for themselves what they want to understand. So what is interpretation exactly?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, interpretation is the act or the result of explaining something to someone or a particular adaptation or version of a work, method, or style. In Wideman’s story the reader sees both definitions. In Wideman’s story the first section explains the scene through the use of questions followed by a perspective switch into the first person that invites the reader into the narrative. Interpretation in the first definition of the word is achieved through the first half of the story.

The narrator tells the reader what is in the scene but the observations of the character are written with such ambiguity that is impossible to tell whether the man eating the banana is separate from the narrator. The initial section where there are only questions reads like a train of though so could be either coming from a separate narrator or the man eating the banana. The ambiguity with which it is written leads the readers to interpret the piece themselves. What also comes through with Wideman’s story is that the reader needs to bring their own experiences and views on the world which make this piece interesting because every reader has a different interpretation based on their own experiences in life and what they see as reality. This is shown in the quote “The only answer I know is this: all the stories I could make from this man walking in the rain eating banana would be sad.” Everyone’s interpretation of the scene in front of them would be colored by how they are feeling and their previous experiences. The second part of the definition is shown through the unique format in which he chose to write it. Traditionally stories are written with questions with a question mark at the end and sentences with a period at the end. This is not the case for this piece of text. Every sentence is phrased as a question with periods at the end of each which makes you think about the underlying meaning behind the sentence and how to interpret that question that isn’t really a question.

The Pianist



I wonder what the composer was feeling when he penned this piece. Why is the pianist dressed in black and white. Do all pianists have to be dressed in black and white. What is the symbolism behind this black and white motif. The pianist matches the piano. Why does the pianist press the pedals. Was the artist sad when he wrote this piece? The emotionality is very interesting I wonder if it is intentional. You would really enjoy this.


source: image 1

Jemma’s Personal Paragraph

I like reading. Ohh Agatha Christie is an amazing writer. I really should get more of her Hercule Poirot books. That play, o what is it called? Oh. Dial M for Murder that was a good how. Rafael was in it. He was funny, I can’t believe that he walked out with the peruse hanging on his arm . that reminds me of that one time where Nadia, heather and I were at the mall and Heather got that new purse. She spent the rest of the time strutting about with it on her arm. OH that reminds me of the time I went shopping for my cello recital dress. I really like that dress but that recital didn’t go too well. I played that piece way too fast. Oops. Fast, we were going really fast when we went out on course in those kayaks. Being in the instructor boat was a really good and fun idea. That reminds me of the time that I worked with Daniel. He was way too fast for his own good. I couldn’t even get a hit in. Geez that sparring session did not go well for me. Oh mom wants me to set the table.