A Hunger Artist Essay

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As an allegory, "A Hunger Artist" employs many symbolic motifs which, although interrelated, may be examined separately. The motif of "hunger," for example, takes on a highly symbolic, yet ambiguous, significance in the story. Surprisingly, however, this story is also based on the real historical phenomenon of "professional fasting." While most critics have failed to note this, Breon Mitchell, in his article, "Kafka and the Hunger Artists," has brought to light the history of a world famous "hunger artist" whose coverage in local newspapers may have inspired Kafka's story. Mitchell points out that "almost every detail" of Kafka's story corresponds to "the actual profession of fasting for pay."

The phenomenon of "professional fasting" lasted from 1880 to 1922, roughly the years of Kafka's life span (1883-1924). The first professional fast was accomplished by Dr. Henry Tanner, an American who was said to have gone for forty days under medical supervision...

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This section contains 1,027 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the A Hunger Artist Study Guide
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Short Stories for Students
A Hunger Artist from Short Stories for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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