The perception of what is and what others think are two completely aspects of reality. In Franz Kafka’s A Hunger Artist, the author introduces a character known only to the reader as the Hunger Artist. As a professional faster, the Hunger Artist’s intentions and legitimacy of his work are never truly understood by the public; not even after his death. Through the use of a depressed mood, contrasting setting, and an isolationist motif, the author conveys that the person we think we are and the person others think we are will never be perceived as the same individual.
A sense of consistently lingering depression hangs in the Artist’s perspective and opinions about himself. According to critical reviewers like Jim Breslin, the Hunger artist’s disposition of depression is partly caused by his inability to progress further in his art. Breslin connects this sense with that of a writer, “Kafka is equating the suffering in starving to the suffering a writer undertakes in crafting a story” (Breslin). However, though this sense of striving to break one’s own artistic limits is apparent, the story delves further than even this. After realizing that there’s no way to fully legitimize his art, the hunger artist’s “dissatisfaction kept gnawing at his insides all the time” (Kafka 8). The dissatisfaction of the artist does not only constitute a likeness to art; it describes an undeniable truth of all of humanity: that we are our own worst critics. Individuals consistently tell themselves to go further when they have reached limits acceptable to the public.
However, other critics, like Zahra Karimi, believe dissatisfaction and suffering are the art of the Hunger artist themselves rather than the effect of his profession. Karimi states, “misunderstanding of his art produces more suffering for the hunger artist, so he enters a vicious cycle: the more he suffers, the less his audience understands him, so he suffers even more” (Karimi 8). Though the misunderstanding of his audience’s perception is true, this professional faster is still the cause of his own suffering through the longing to perfect what others cannot think to perfect. The author continues, “He lived this way, taking small regular breaks, for many years, apparently in the spotlight, honoured by the world, but for all that his mood was usually gloomy, and it kept growing gloomier all the time…how was he to find consolation? What was there left for him to wish for?” (Kafka 4). The Hunger Artist, though caught in the midst of those that watch him, is truly suffering from his own expectation for himself: an expectation of his irrationality that he can fast forever.
Further than the depression inherent in his mind, the change of setting changes his self-image just as much as the audience changes theirs. However, the two realities (although less depressive) create an even bigger derision between the Hunger Artist and the opinions of others, namely: those that visit the circus. In Breslin’s opinion, “The...