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Themes

In Kafka's "A Hunger Artist," the most obvious form of suffering for the artist seems to come from the physical demands of his art. The story stresses his deteriorating body as he starves for a period of forty days with only sips of water to sustain him. This physical suffering only puts into starker relief another source of suffering for the artist: his audience's lack of appreciation for his artistry. But these sources of suffering may not compare to the artist's dissatisfaction with himself, even when he seems to reach the ultimate heights of his art.

Questions About Suffering

  1. How does the hunger artist suffer physically? How does his body or his behavior show the effects of his physical suffering?
  2. How does the hunger artist suffer mentally or emotionally? What do those around him do to worsen his suffering?
  3. Take a look at his death scene. Do you think the artist dies suffering? Why or why not?
  4. Consider the way the animals are represented in the story. Do you think the animals in the circus suffer? If you think they suffer, does their suffering matter in the same way that human suffering does? Why or why not?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

In Kafka's "A Hunger Artist," the physical suffering the artist endures does not compare to the emotional and intellectual anguish that he experiences.

In Kafka's "A Hunger Artist," the principle cause of the artist's suffering is his inability to meet his own artistic standards.

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