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.

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