A Hunger Artist By Roland Barthes Analysis

2077 Words 9 Pages
One- The Loneliest Number
Connection- People yearn for it and yet have disdain for it all at one time. Sometimes it is a spiritual connect to self that one hungers for and at other times it is a sense of belonging to society that is desired. A lacking in either of these areas can bring one to a point of despair. Furthermore, the fear of not having self and social acceptance can result in a “forfeit all” mentality as one can just refuse to participate in the game we call life and withdrawal completely. According to philosopher Roland Barthes, “There is only one way left to escape the alienation of present day society: to retreat ahead of it.” Thus human beings, desiring relationship, instead opt for separation in the hopeless realization
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The fasting is done publically while residing in a cage. Prior to the defection of his audience, in the course of his fasting, he feels compromised for not being able to take the fasting art form to its ultimate limits. This compromise fuels his contempt for those who do not understand the true meaning of his abilities. The hunger artist perceives that his manager and the audience are keeping him from reaching his full potential as he feels that he can do so much more. In addition, the audience though finding a certain fascination with his art is cynical and thinks he is most certainly cheating. Akin to a greedy Hollywood agent, the hunger artist’s manager exploits him for great financial gain while appearing to have his best interest at heart. After popularity wanes, the hunger artist puts himself into a circus where he is only noticed because he is near the animals. The strong contempt he once felt for the audience in the beginning of the story is now replaced with an acceptance of his own insignificance. The story ends with the hunger artist asking for forgiveness as he explains that people should not be admiring of his fasting for he would have eaten if he would” have found food that he liked” (p231). The hunger artist dies in his …show more content…
Today there is an increase in alcoholism, drug dependency and human alienation. On one level, it serves to sever apart and isolate the individual who suffers but on a much grander scale it is a loud scream for notice and understanding. People can be trapped in their own world of self-destruction. In this respect, the cage represents the actual imprisonment the hunger artist feels in his own body and to himself. The only way to break free from his own limitations and shortcomings is to ultimately die. Nothing of this world can satisfy and the hunger artist and his cage represents to us, the reader, our own feeling of entrapment in a world where the “pursuit of happiness” is ultimately just as elusive. Kafka says very clearly, in a way that “no syllable might be lost” that satisfaction was not forthcoming “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.” (p 231) Kafka is underlining the hopeless endeavor of gaining a self worth and satisfying significance from the validation of others. The outside world as it watches in horrifying fascination truly is unable to respond to the most basic need of the hunger artist, which is to be perfectly understood and appreciated. The hunger artist physically is emaciated by lack of food but truly is he is starved and made weak by the lack of human

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