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.

Synthesizing Stories

In Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida, Susan Sontag’s On Photography, and Jorge Borges’ “The Circular Ruins”, the theme of the manipulation of reality is extremely prevalent. Barthes, Sontag and Borges divulge in their writings that reality is truly subjective. Specifically, Sontag and Barthes use photographs to show a manipulation of reality, while Borges’s master dreamer uncovers how dreams play a role in our view of reality.  

Reality is subjective, because it can be manipulated by either the photographer or the subject to represent different perspectives. Most people view photography as a tool to “furnish evidence” (Sontag). However, Sontag argues in her piece “On Photography” that “[e]ven when photographers are most concerned with mirroring reality, they are still haunted by tacit imperatives of taste and conscience.” Although photographers might not even be aware of their manipulation, the whole point of their work is to send a message. Therefore, interpretation and personal style is inevitable in a photograph. This makes it impossible to achieve an objective reality through photographs.

Sontag also encapsulates the essential role of the photographer in the manipulation of the photographer’s subject and the manipulation of reality when she describes how photographers “would take dozens of frontal pictures of one of their sharecropper subjects until satisfied that they had gotten just the right look on film… that supported their own notions about poverty, light, dignity, texture, exploitation, and geometry.” (Sontag). This shows how the “reality” that some people think photography captures isn’t the reality for everyone. Everything is an interpretation. Photography can’t be an exact snippet of reality when the subject of the picture is putting on an act.

Furthermore, in Camera Lucida, Barthes describes how subjects often pose for the camera, making it impossible for the photograph to be a true glimpse into reality because the subject is not portraying their true, candid self. For example, it could be a reality that the subject of a photograph is smiling; however, if a person sees that picture and assumes the subject is happy, that is their interpretation of the reality. One might look at the picture of the subject posing and assume one reality, when it is really another. Because of this, reality is determined by one’s perspective and is therefore subjective. Barthes also describes how the subject being photographed feels that they are “neither subject nor object but a subject who feels he is becoming an object”. According to the narrator, being photographed makes one feel as though they are no longer full of life but merely an object under another’s control. The idea of a subject becoming an object plays with reality as well because it is difficult to know the reality of the person being photographed: are they a subject or an object? If photography transforms a subject into an object, it is impossible that they reflect an objective reality.

Additionally, reality is subjective because dreams can offer multiple realities through multiple possible perspectives. This is exemplified through Borges’ main character in his story “The Circular Ruins”. At first, the reader thinks that the main man is real and the son is fake. However, the reader is then told that the master dreamer himself is dreamt up. Certainly one reality is that the man is real, but another opposing reality is that he is just a dream. Therefore, there are multiple realities depending on one’s interpretation and perspective. This thus demonstrates how reality is subjective and there is not one objective reality. Moreover, the man’s dreams are a reality to him, but might not be for everyone. For example, Borges writes that “[h]e wanted to dream him completely, in painstaking detail, and impose him upon reality.” The phrase “impose him on reality” exposes the apparent manipulation of reality related to this man’s dreams. If the dreaming man wants to impose something on reality, and believes he is capable of doing so, then the reality is subjective to this man’s interpretation. Borges, throughout his writing, asks the reader to question the relationship between dreams and reality and whether or not there is some overlap between the two. This is clear because the author is constantly using the word “real”: “insert him into the real world”, “accustomed the youth to reality”, “that his unreal son”. Perhaps the man doesn’t think the son is “real”, but others perceive him as real. Borges exposes a certain truth about reality: that reality can only be objective if everyone agrees on it and sees the same thing. However, with dreams, one reality can not be agreed on and is therefore subjective. Thus, the element of dreams in Borges’ The Circular Ruins exhibits a manner in which reality is subjective to one’s interpretation and perspective, and how reality is never one objective truth.

The works of authors Barthes, Sontag, and Borges reveal that reality is subjective, and one can see that through the element of photography in On Photography and Camera Lucida as well as through the element of dreams in The Circular Ruins. There is never one truth or reality; one makes one’s own reality and truth through their personalized interpretation of events. Everyone has a natural bias and interpretation, therefore making it impossible to see an objective reality. And really, since no one can see it, does an objective really even exist at all? url sontag_photography004 {3C98DCDA-B3DA-48D8-9BD9-B458C5ACAE6A}Img400

The Fallacy of Legacy

     Death is a terrifying prospect because of the unknown that comes after it. Once we are dead, there seems to be nothing on earth that remains of us. We fade into oblivion. Yet literary masters believe the opposite. Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida, Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Circular Ruins,” and Susan Sontag’s On Photography all describe the death of a man, and his continuation through either images or children, demonstrating that while death is the final end for human life and the true self, it is legacy, the optimistic characterization of a human, that lives on. Furthermore, Barthes’ and Sontag’s texts on photography show that death must preface legacy, and that legacy serves as a reminder of the dead for the living.

     After death, humans leave not only their bodies, lives, and true selves behind, but also a trail of images and children. Whenever a photo is taken, the photographer creates another world, “an image-world that bids to outlasts us all” (Sontag). Photos build an immortal world in which the deceased still exist and are preserved in their best state, leaving a paper trail of who they were. Families create albums filled with family photos to “memorialize… [the] extendedness of family life” (Sontag). Sontag explains that as families die, only “a family’s photograph album… is all that remains of it.” Borges’ “The Circular Ruins” shows that what remains of a human is his offspring. the remains of a human in his offspring. In the story, the protagonist tries to create life and craft his son during his dream. His creation has the same “sharp features” as he does, and is interested in the same matters as he is (Borges). When he dies, the protagonist’s facial features and passion will live on. Images and children are all reminders of the person who are in them or created them.

     However, photos and children aren’t true representations of a person. As Barthes explains, whenever he’s photographed, “[he does] not stop imitating [himself].” The photo taken of him is not his true self, but a polished version of who he is, a version he wants the world to see. When he dies, it’s not his true, innate self that continues to exist in the image-world; it is the Photo-shopped and curated reflection Barthes wants the world to see. In the case of Borges’ protagonist, his offspring’s “sharp features” merely “[echo] those of the man that dreamed him” (Borges). While the features are similar, they are not the same, simply a version of the actual face. Images and children only capture an aspect of a person, but not the whole person. The true self disappears with death.

     When photographed and creating a legacy, a person must first experience death, causing the lines between life and death to blur. As Barthes’ explains, “I… experience a micro-version of death” whenever someone takes a picture of him. His real self dies whenever he sees a camera because he starts to pose, and groom his appearance into someone he is not. Instead of letting his real self be seen in the photo, he tries to reveal that he is “from a ‘good sort’… endowed with a noble expression — thoughtful, intelligent, etc.” “Death is the eidos of that Photograph” as Barthes believes. What is captured does not reflect the reality.

     It is for the same reason that Sontag calls the immortal image-world “ghostly traces.” Photos only capture a faint image of the person, and often it captures only what the person wishes to be seen like. The real self cannot be portrayed because humans don’t want it to be seen that way. Humans pose, trying to look their best, trying to mask their flaws. What photos display is “unreal,” as Sontag describes it. It is why the subject of a photo is referred as “a specter” by Barthes, and the image-world as “ghostly” by Sontag. The irony of the situation is that for humans to remain in the world through images, they must experience a sort of death and be resurrected into its spectral and immortal world. Perhaps the only way to remain in the world is through death. Dying allows for new humans to exist and for offspring to flourish. Without death of the old, the new crop cannot grow. Only legacy has the place to exist after death because legacy is a watered-down, untenable reflection of the true person. It is often an echo of the person, usually an aggrandized or overly optimistic characterization of him/her. Legacy is not for the dead; it’s for the living to remember the dead. It’s for the living to remember the dead at their happiest, best moments instead of their saddest, most depressed times. To remain immortal in the world, a person must die and be reborn as his/her best self.

     Death is the end of human life, but not of human legacy. In fact, a person lives on after death as a legacy for others to remember. What remains is not the true human self. On the contrary, it is a self that is carefully constructed through images and offspring. What remains is for the living to remember the dead at their best, not at their most authentic. So, what’s your final image?

Maybe It’s Necessary to Suffer to Succeed

Franz Kafka’s “A Hunger Artist” is about a professional faster who sits in a cage, not eating anything, for the entertainment of the town. The artist’s suffering is to be hungry; however, to him this also means success, not eating anything and being able to please the people. Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Circular Ruins” is the story of a man who wants to create the perfect man through his dream; he works so hard to create a perfect man to the point that he suffers many sleepless nights from trying so hard to dream the perfect man; however, in the end, he is able to have success in creating the perfect man. Alastair Reid’s “Curiosity” focuses on the idea that curiosity killed the cat. The cat’s success was having knowledge, but to get that knowledge he would have to suffer by dying. In the works by Kafka, Borges, and Reid the characters suffer in order to succeed in living their lives to the fullest; the idea of living life to the fullest can be seen as being successful.

In Kafka’s “A Hunger Artist”, for example, the hunger artist suffers as a profession. He goes day and night without eating anything because this is his idea of reaching success. Fasting is his way of living his life to the fullest. Although the artist is suffering in order to live his life to the fullest, he is doing this because it is his art. His art is his passion, so his success is him living his life to fullest because he is making his art how he wants it to be made. The Hunger Artist’s goal is that “…during his fast the artist would never in any circumstances, not even under forcible compulsion, swallow the smallest morsel of food; the honor of his profession forbade it” (Kafka). The Artist is completely committed to the idea of never eating anything, not even a crumb. He suffers for this because “…only the artist himself could know that, he was therefore bound to be the sole completely satisfied spectator of his own fast” (Kafka). His success is his own thing, so he has to realize that for him to be the only one that cares about his success is what matters. Eventually the artist will suffer until he feels that he reaches exactly what he feels is his success. However, in order to reach that success, he sometimes has to take more suffering than initially planned. The Hunger Artist suffers so much that he dies, due to his reach for success. He suffers for his success until he dies and the circus workers find him and “…bur[y] the hunger artist, straw and all” (Kafka). The hunger artist eventually suffers to the point that he dies. He may have not necessarily wants to die, but he wants to have success. His success was the way he wanted to live his life to the fullest, and he dies for it because it shows his passion for what he wants.

The next author, Borges, who wrote “The Circular Ruins,” the story is about a man who wants to create a perfect man in his dream. The man wants to dream a man that would be real. The man’s goal is to create the perfect real man. This goal that “…[leads] him on [is] not impossible, though it was clearly supernatural: He wanted to dream a man. He wanted to dream him completely, in painstaking detail…” (Borges) His only goal was to create this man, but he didn’t do this without a little suffering. The man suffers due to “all that night and the next day, the unbearable lucidity of insomnia harried him, like a hawk” (Borges). Not getting sleep is how the man suffered. He didn’t care though; he simply wanted to create the perfect man. Eventually he is able to do so, and “he saw with some bitterness that his son was ready—perhaps even impatient—to be born” (Borges). The man succeeds, and was able to live his life to the fullest by creating a real man. He created his son. This was all that he wanted, and he was able to succeed even with the suffering that he had to go through.

Finally, Reid’s poem “Curiosity” shows that curiosity can lead to success through suffering. The known saying is that “curiosity may have killed the cat” (Reid). The cat wants to know things, his goal, and he was willing to die for it. On the other hand it could be that the cat was “…curious to see what death was like” (Reid). The cat’s success was to know everything. The cat wants knowledge, and it wants to experience everything as well. The cat wants to have that knowledge, and it didn’t matter what it costed. To many people “only the curious have, if they live, a tale worth telling at all” (Reid). The cat essentially gets everything that he wants. The cat gets what he wants even though he has to suffer immensely for it. The cat lives his life to the fullest because he allows himself to have curiosity. Reid explains how the cat’s willingness to die allows it to live its life to the fullest however, the dog isn’t curious, so it doesn’t live its life to the fullest (Reid).

In Kafka, Borges, and Reid’s stories a major focus is that to succeed one must suffer. The idea that in order to live one’s life to the fullest a person may have to suffer. Everyday people go through obstacles to get what they want. Even though it isn’t to the extent of dying everyone suffers a little to succeed. Most people want to live their lives to the fullest, and living one’s life to the fullest is the way that many people succeed.

The Reality of Human Nature (Kafka’s “A Hunger Artist”)

“A Hunger Artist” was written by Franz Kafka and published in 1922. The story is about an artist who puts himself in a cage and fasts for 40 days straight. The artist is the town’s entertainment, however, the town eventually gets bored with him and decides to go to the circus as a sideshow. Soon after he dies at the circus due to hunger and the circus workers bury him with his straw and is replaced by a young panther. Kafka’s story, “A Hunger Artist,” discusses how people shouldn’t settle mentally and how people get bored easily. Along with this Kafka shows the underlying factors of how people behave by showing the self honor that people have.

Everyday people settle for different things. In “The Hunger Artist,” Kafka looks at the topic of mentally settling. The Hunger Artist shows this when he says, “…because I couldn’t find the food I liked. If I had found it, believe me, I should have made no fuss and stuffed myself like you or anyone else” (340). Sometimes people will settle because going after what their true passion is can be risky, so people settle for something more safe. However, part of the purpose in life is to find your passion, no matter the risk. The Hunger Artist was willing to die, so that he wouldn’t have to settle. This is a conscious decision on his part to not take food that he didn’t want. For the artist to do this it took a lot of passion.

New and better things come out everyday, and people will drop the old like it never mattered. The townspeople eventually get tired of the Hunger Artist and his work. Kafka shows this by writing, “…the interest of the public could be stimulated by a steadily increasing pressure of advertisement, but after that the town began to lose interest, sympathetic support began notably to fall off…” (335). The Hunger Artist was the entertainment at the time, however, the people found something new to entertain themselves with and dropped the Hunger Artist like he never mattered. Human nature has always led people to look for new and better things. People behave a certain way when there is something new; they get excited for it. Even though people gets bored of watching the artist he remained true to himself.

People do different things for themselves everyday, but when doing these things they have to have self honor in order not to cheat themselves. The idea of self honor is displayed when Kafka says, “No one could possibly watch the hunger artist continuously, day and night, and so no one could produce first-hand evidence that the fast had really been rigorous and continuous; only the artist himself could know that…” (335). Since nobody watched the Hunger Artist all day and night, he had to rely on himself to not break his fast. This is the same concept for students when they do their homework they have to make sure that they don’t cheat and do it for themselves. The teachers are like the watchers; they aren’t around day and night. Both the students and the artist have to do things for themselves; they both had to do it as if no one was watching them.

Kafka Paper

“The Hunger Artist “ was first published in 1922, and it was written by Franz Kafka. This story is an artist whose art is just him sitting in a cage fasting for the audience. The artist travels all around Europe putting on these shows. His whole performance  relies on the audience.    

“The Hunger Artist “ was first published in 1922, and Franz Kafka wrote it. This story is an artist whose art is just him sitting in a cage fasting for the audience. His whole performance relies on the audience. But when the audience starts to thin out his manager puts him in a circus. The Artist investable forgotten  about in the cage and dies.  There are three key things that make the story, the fact that the artist never feels satisfied with his art so he never ate, the  fact that the artist was the only one who knew that he wasn’t really eating and why the audience kept the artist alive. This story can be read as a story with a lesson in it about art and being an artist.

The artist never felt content with his work so he never thought that he deserved to eat. This could be his innermost feeling telling him he isn’t going enough to eat, “because I couldn’t find the food I liked. If I had found it, believe me, I should have made no fuss and stuffed myself like you or anyone else” (340). This quote shows how he just couldn’t find any food that he liked. Maybe his taste buds just don’t let him enjoy food because deep down he doesn’t feel like he deserves it.

The artist is the only one who knows that he is really fasting for the whole time. The People who were watching him assume that he would try to sneak food but little did they know the artist doesn’t like food, “ only the artist himself could know that he was therefore bound to be the sole completely satisfied spectator of his own fast” (335). This quote shows how no one really knew expect the artist how long he was fasting for and his reasons why. No one could watch the artist all the time so he was the only one who knew that he really wasn’t eating anything at all.

In this story, the spectators play the most important role. This is because the artist feeds off the energy from the people. He lives off them watching and without them, he isn’t an artist. “Experience had proved that for about forty days the interest of the public could be stimulated by a steadily increasing pressure of advertisement, but after that, the town began to lose interest, sympathetic support began notably to fall off…” (335). When the people started to lose interest. It literally killed him because no one was keeping track of the days. He didn’t have a crowd so he didn’t have anything to live for.

The hungered artist couldn’t survive without a crowd watching him. Not being satisfied with himself also lead to his demise. The artist only could only really trust himself when it came to not eating. Also since no one came to see him starve himself, he didn’t have a reason to be an artist.

Reality? How do we know it’s real?

How is the manipulation of reality portrayed in literature? This is explored in Wideman’s “Stories,” Borges’s “The Circular Ruins” and Sontag’s “On Photography”. All of these works of literature look at reality in very interesting and different ways. It seems that there can be multiple realities and sometimes people will make up reality for people that they don’t even know. In Wideman’s “stories,” the narrator is seeing a man eating a banana from the perspective a man watching from a window. In this story, it’s hard to tell whose reality the story is being told from. In “The Circular Ruins,” you see a man who is dreaming of other people and making up realities for other people. In “On Photography” by Sontag, Sontag discusses how you can really make your own reality in your photography and make it any way you want. In the literary works by Borges, Sontag, and Wideman they all show that reality is subjective to the person interpreting the situation.

In Jorge Luis Borges’s “The Circular Ruins,” the perception of reality is very hard to grasp. It is a story of a man who is feeling he is from somewhere. He soon begins to dream about teaching a class. Soon he starts to teach only one student, one alone and teaches him everything he knows. He then sends the student to train down the river, to a place where there are ruins that catch fire. The man thinks to head to the water to hide from the flames; but the flames didn’t affect him and he realizes that he was in another man’s dream: “With relief, with humiliation, with terror, he realized that he, too, was but appearance, that another man was dreaming him.”(Borges). This shows how the man was in someone else’s dream even though the man himself was having dreams in another man’s head; all at the same time. This is one man’s reality, but in fact, there are three different realities. The reality of the man who had the dream, the reality of the student and his own reality. This shows that reality is subjective because the man who is dreaming of these people is dreaming and his dreams are subjective.

In Susan Sontag’s On Photography, she says “ Although there is a sense in which the camera does indeed capture reality, not just interpret it, photographs are as much an interpretation of the world as paintings and drawings are” (Sontag). In this, Sontag is saying that in photography, reality can be molded and shaped to whatever the photographer wants. It can be just like a painting; you can make things just as you want. So when you see a picture it’s part of reality but all of the aspects of the image can be changed. It’s subjective because it’s affected by the person’s preference.

John Edgar Wideman’s “Stories,” tells a tale of a man walking in the rain eating a banana. It is a strange story, and it seems to be told by someone who is watching him from a window: “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 unless I’m behind a window with you looking out at him.”(Wideman). This shows that the story is being told from someone watching from a window. This person in the window is just trying to figure out what the man was doing and what made him want to eat a banana in the rain. He also goes on to say that all the stories he would come up with would be sad without this other person. It’s subjective because the man’s emotions are affecting it.

All three of these stories have the same engineered reality. All these change the reality of the people they are dreaming about or writing about or capturing. They change according to what they subjectively like. Most people are subjective when it comes to their work because it’s very hard to leave out personal feelings, tastes, or opinions. In Borges’s story, the man is dreaming so he is projecting his life into the dream so it is subjective. In Sontag’s piece, she tells us that her work is changed because of her taste and how she wants to perceive the photo, so it’s subjective. In Wideman’s “Stories,” the story is made because the person who is telling it misses someone, so its objective. Thus, the literary works by Borges, Sontag, and Wideman all show that reality is subjective to the person interpreting the situation.

Kafka’s (Hunger) Artist

In Kafka’s story “A Hunger Artist” an omniscient narrator relates the story of a professional faster/ hunger artist, and this man’s struggle with the pressures that being an artist entails. Kafka’s story can be interpreted as a parable about being an artist because it captures both how rewarding practicing an art can be as well as an artist’s struggle with being misunderstood.

The character of the hunger artist exposes that being an artist is an extremely rewarding profession because of the recognition that you can receive. Kafka writes, “He was quite happy at the prospect of spending a sleepless night with such watchers; he was ready to exchange jokes with them…” Although the hunger artist is starving in his cage, he still wants to interact with others because he loves his art. It pleases him to know that people are watching because he, as an artist, desires recognition. There are many reasons why artists create their works, but the main reasons seem to be to attempt to satisfy themselves as well as to receive recognition from others. The hunger artist has put so much time and effort into his art that it lifts his spirits to know that other people appreciate his work. This therefore encapsulates the rewarding feeling that practicing art and receiving recognition for it can be and demonstrates the relationship between this story and artistry.

On the other hand, artists are never fully satisfied with their work and are always striving toward a non-existent perfection. This chronic dissatisfaction tends to isolate them from the general public, thus representing an artist’s struggle with being misunderstood. This is clear at the end of the story when the hunger artist explains that the reason he fasts is because he never found any “food” that he liked, and if he had he would have stuffed his face like everyone else. The “food” that the hunger artist is referring to is self-satisfaction. As an artist, he is never fully satisfied with himself or his art. Non-artists are not quite as obsessed with this idea of perfection and are therefore capable of being satisfied with themselves. Because these people find the “food” that they like, they do not understand the motives behind why the hunger artist does what he does. However, the artist isn’t like that, so he distinguishes himself from the others which in turn makes him feel more misunderstood.

Thus, it is clear that Kafka’s story is in fact a parable for being an artist. Kafka chose to demonstrate the successes and struggles of an artist with the example of fasting, because it is somewhat foreign to other cultures where fasting is not practiced as an art. This therefore makes the reader think more about how dynamic art really is. Kafka effortlessly relates the art of hunger to art in general. 193

Uncovering curiosity in Wideman’s “Stories”

Wideman’s short story “Stories” discusses curiosity on multiple levels both in content and in structure. Wideman does this by revealing curiosity from multiple perspectives.  The main indicator of Wideman dealing with curiosity is the sheer number of questions in the passage. When one is curious, that person tends to ask questions. While it is hard to parse out the questions because they are not punctuated with question marks, they are in fact inquiries. One can tell they are questions because the sentence structure includes question words such as  “why” and “how” and “if”. There are over 20 questions in this short passage. Through these questions, the passage expresses a multi-layered example of curiosity. The first layer is the narrator’s curiosity of the man walking in the rain eating a banana, exemplified by the many questions the narrator has about this man in the rain. Then, there is the layer of the reader, who wonders both why there are all these questions, without question marks, and why they are centered around something that is seemingly quite ordinary.

The end of the passage also reveals multiple layers of curiosity. When the narrator mentions that all his stories would be sad unless he was with a mysterious “you”, the reader begins to wonder. The reader might be curious as to if this is a love story, or just who the “you” is that the narrator is talking about and why is the narrator isn’t with this person.

Wideman is connecting his writing to the theme of seeing and reality in addition to curiosity, apparent when the reader does not know if the narrator is describing reality or falsehood. This reveals yet another layer of curiosity: the curiosity that the reader has when they wonder if the situation they are reading about is reality or not. For example, the reader might be curious if there is actually a man walking in the rain eating a banana or if it is a mere vision or a representation of something greater. It could even be a delusion or a hallucination. Through multiple pieces of writing structure as well as the content of the passage, Wideman deals with a multi-layered curiosity expressed through multiple perspectives.