A Hunger Artist

A Hunger Artist by Franz Kafka

Kafka's A Hunger Artist is about how an artist negotiates with the society? Please help me realize with some comprehensible examples.

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The artist has a complicated relationship with his society and his audience. Like most artists, he needs constant validation. He believes fasting and suffering is a high art and not mere entertainment, and as such he needs to prove that he is not cheating. However, no one believes he is truly fasting all the time. This 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.

The hunger artist also needs to feel superior to the masses. He elevates his fasting to mythical proportions, trying to break world records, even when no one else pays attention. Most importantly, he delights in maintaining his fast while his overnight watchers (usually gluttonous butchers) gorge themselves on a breakfast at his expense; in his eyes, they are weak-willed while he has god-like determination and concentration. Perhaps this feeling of superiority also ensures that no one can criticize him; if no one else understands his art, then no one can pass informed judgment on it. This blend of dependency‹a need for validation and a need to feel superior‹may explain why the hunger artist remains eternally unsatisfied. He wants to be understood and have his art validated, but he also wants to be not understood so he can feel superior and remain impervious from criticism.

The hunger artist hints at what he has been truly seeking all along only at the end. With his dying words to the circus overseer, he purses his lips as if to kiss the overseer. He has wanted to use his body as a vessel of love, not of starvation and suffering.