The Metamorphosis

Sacrifice in Kafka

In Franz Kafka's stories "The Metamorphosis", "In The Penal Colony", and "The Fasting-Artist", the protagonists, Gregor Samsa, the officer, and the fasting-artist, each make apparent sacrifices. These characters give their lives for others, but their deeds are unacknowledged by those they should benefit, who neither enjoy nor even understand the sacrifices made for them. The only one who can truly appreciate a sacrifice is the victim himself.

The most prominent example of this tendency appears in "The Fasting-Artist". The artist fasts for public admiration, so that ladies can have the place of honor holding his body and crowds can come to look at him. He thinks that fasting is not a sacrifice at all; "he knew...how easy fasting was" (212) but his ability to eat the food supplied to him by watchmen who cannot understand "the honor of his art" (210) shows that it costs him at least some effort when his audience does not appreciate his sacrifice. He feels that his true sacrifice is "lying in bed almost at his last gasp...the consequence of the premature ending of his fast" (215) which he does, again, because after "about forty days...the audience fell...

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