“A Hunger Artist” by Franz Kafka

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What kind of symbols and figurative language in A Hunger Artist does Kafka use? The answer to this question is up for debate. A Hunger Artist is considered one of Kafka’s prominent works, and one of the best, perfect created short stories. Kafka gives a story of a man known as a hunger artist who is referred to as professional faster. With support from his business manager, the hunger artist spends all his life starving himself in a cage as spectators came to watch him. In the short story, Kafka uses symbols like a clock, panther, and cage to convey information to the audience in a poetic manner; he also employs figurative language with the use of personification, simile, and metaphor to evoke emotions and help the audience visualize the story as well as drawing readers in. This paper will analyze the use of symbols and figurative language in A Hunger Artist.

In the classic story of A Hunger Artist, the author uses many symbols. The first symbol is the clock. The protagonist is not attentive with his surroundings, not even the only thing is his “cage,” which is “the clock” (Kafka 669). The clock inside the cages symbolizes the biological clock of an artist and draws consideration to his own body’s limitation. It indicates that nothing lasts forever or for long which the hunger artist chooses to ignore. The hunger artist is a popular attraction for a while, but one will eventually get tired of him. Although the hungry artist is persuaded that excellence in his art is a decent and lasting human accomplishment, he labors under misperceptions that his authority of fasting will exist forever. The presence of the clock discloses the delusions of the artist by continually reminding him of the truth of the present.

Panther is the second symbol used in the short story. Panther is seen at the end of the story, and with its power, it represents the opposite of the hunger artist, who was frail and eventually dead. The hunger artist who used up his time attempting to accomplish his personal gratification in the birdcage is replaced by a panther that shows the enthusiastic of his existence. The hunger artist has a choice to leave his cage but he wanted to feel accomplished by fasting for a longer period, “beyond [the] term he was not allowed to go” (Kafka 670-671). The hunger artist stays in constant want state for both nourishment and acknowledgment trying to prove himself. The panther enjoys what he has without a second thought (Kafka 675). While the panther wants for nothing. Although panther is detained, it is so happy in its skin that it displays an air of liberty. Finally, the panther symbolizes the authority as well as graces that come from fetching with the material world. This clarifies why many individual crowds around his birdcage. Its liveliness has held more gratitude that hunger never succeeded.

The last symbol that Kafka employs is the cage. The cage where the hunger artist performs symbolizes his isolation particularly from the public permitting him to focus fully on practicing his art. This shows the separation between the spectators and spectacle, and the obstacle that hinders the viewers’ comprehension. The audiences only see a skinny man who is cheating on his fast, but they are unable to comprehend the true accomplishment by what the protagonist is doing and struggling inside his birdcage. As the way hunger artist suggests, the audience position outside the cage inhibits them from truly appreciating the feat of the hunger artist. Kafka uses a cage to show how the artist often feels isolated as he believes the general public does not appreciate his work. It is as if society has confined him to a cage. The cage also symbolizes safety, guarding the hunger artist against people who do not recognize him. According to the artist, a hungry artist may cry his separation from others but he is the one who decided to isolate himself (Kafka 670). The cage shows the body of a hungry artist through which he feels he is trapped. His body, as well as his physical wants, are ultimate limitations on his desire to fast indelibly thus according to him, his physical body is in jail and his effort to move out is really death wish. Through fasting, a hungry artist tries to stage outside his skin, a performance connected with demise and divinity.

Also, the whole story can be interpreted as figurative. But it is still clear that Kafka’s storyline has something to tell and communicate. Kafka does things by using personification, simile, metaphor, and imagery. By the use of personification, Kafka states that “heaven” was looking down upon the artist (671). The author uses a simile to compare the protagonist to an animal. “He reacted with an outburst of fury and to the general alarm began to shake the bars of his cage like a wild animal” (Kafka 672). Here Kafka compares a hunger artist with a wild animal like the artist is insane. Moreover, Kafka uses the art of starvation as a metaphor for sufferance giving this story a deeper meaning.

Finally, Kafka uses imagery as a figurative language to show an emotional response to the main character and his conditions. Kafka addresses that “he sat there pallid in black tights, with his ribs sticking out so prominently, not even on a seat but down among straw on the ground, sometimes giving a courteous nod, answering questions with a constrained smile” (669). In this sentence, Kafka described the sight of the skinny artist lying down on the floor, designate the physical condition of the artist.

In summary, it is clear that Kafka extensively uses symbols and figurative language throughout the story. Symbols are used in the story to represent ideas, emotions by using objects and an animal. The cage is used to represent solitude and alienation of the hunger artist from society. This lets the artist develop a deeper disconnection between him and people. Kafka has also used figurative language by using personification, similes, metaphors, and imagery to create a vivid image for his audience and lifeless condition that hunger artists insist on living on.

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"A Hunger Artist" By Franz Kafka. (2021, Apr 07). Retrieved June 24, 2024 , from

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