A Hunger Artist Essay Research Paper Symbolism

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A Hunger Artist Essay, Research Paper Symbolism of the cage in Kafka s A Hunger Artist Grant Kohler The cage is a symbol of many things throughout the story, most noticeably irony, but the cage is also a symbol of animalism in the artist and a symbol of security through change. Irony is a tool used by the author in the plot of the story, which yields a resolution that is the opposite, or at least very different than what was expected from the characters. The protagonist of the Kafka story is an ironic character because he feels the strongest when he fasts, and becomes nauseous when he eats food, whereas most people feel nauseous when they do not eat food. This is quite autobiographical, because Kafka suffered from tuberculosis and his weight would often fluctuate between

100-140 pounds. The dialogue is also rather ironic. The artist will make a statement, one that the people would not think of as ironic, and when they reply to him, they say what he does not want to hear. I always wanted you to admire my fasting, said the hunger artist. We do admire it, said the overseer, affably. But you shouldn t admire it, said the hunger artist. Earlier in the story, Kafka tells us that the hunger artist was required to stop fasting; that his boss imposed a 40-day limit on the fast. When he is forced to stop fasting and is removed from the cage by ladies, Kafka points out that the eyes of the ladies, who were apparently friendly and in reality so cruel. is another example of this irony. Why? Because they are aiding him in his weakened condition as the fast

ends, but they are cheating the artist out of his ability to fast even longer. He knows that he can fast almost indefinitely, since he felt there were no limits to his capacity for fasting. It s strange how Kafka s translators chose the word capacity, a word denoting fullness, when his stomach is quite empty. The cage supersedes these aspects because this cage brings him comfort in captivity and isolation, whereas normal people lose those qualities in confinement. The cage also is a symbol for the plasticity of the hunger artist s animal-like behavior. It is often referred to in the possessive, his cage, and the hunger artist s cage. It is a fact that most animals in captivity, whether it is a panther in a zoo or just a domesticated dog, that when they have been confined to a

certain area, they exhibit behavior that is possessive of that space. The artist sits down among the straw on the ground, sometimes giving a courteous nod drawing deep into himself, paying no attention to anyone or anything…but merely staring into vacancy with half shut eyes, now and then taking a sip from a tiny glass of water to moisten his lips. The author is trying very hard to show what an animal he is, with extreme detail, mimicking the way animals on display sit there while the children look on. He never leaves the cage on his own free will, he was comfortable sitting in the straw that s why he resents the impresario for always ending his fast on the fortieth day. We the readers see more of this animalism in the hunger artist when the protagonist fasts professionally for

the circus. His cage, and it is referred to as that several times in the large and first paragraph on page 201, is placed outside near the animal cages, where he belongs. Now people will see him when they come to see the other animals. Later, Kafka says, he had the animals to thank for the tropes of people that passed his cage. The cage is also a symbol of stability throughout a trend. Not just in the trend of his profession, but in trends as an abstract. In the first paragraph, the elders of the children view him as a joke that happened to be in fashion. The artist is like the Backstreet Boys of early twentieth century Kafka ideals. Later, the narrator reveals in the mind of one of those children, grown up now, that he was telling stories of earlier years when he himself had