Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
The panther seems to be the complete and total opposite of the hunger artist. While the artist was corpse-like and skinny, the panther's "noble body" emanates vitality (10). While the artist just sat on his straw, taking sips of water, the panther jumps around, as if it were "carry[ing] its freedom around with it" (10). And while the artist was, to put it mildly, a picky eater, the panther devours everything the keepers feed it.
The panther could be read as a figure of everything the artist sacrifices in pursuit of art: bodily pleasures, joy, freedom. If the artist's emaciated form is an unwelcome reminder of our mortality, the panther seems to be life embodied. But whether the panther, and all that it symbolizes, wins out over the artist is left ambiguous: it is, after all, caged.