A Hunger Artist

Kafka’s Ape, Adaptive Behavior, and Our Status as Humans

May 27, 2019 by Essay Writer

In “A Report to an Academy,” the marvelous transformation of the fictional ape Rotpeter offers striking insight into human adaptive behavior, and blurs and then elucidates the differences between man and ape. The short story, written as a letter by Rotpeter, tells of the transition of Rotpeter from his ape existence to that of a human. Rotpeter is regarded as a marvel of nature, his many-thousand year evolution occurring in a mere five. His existence and actions are unique in their own right, and mirror many of the behaviors demonstrated by man. Rotpeter’s process of transformation is reflected, for example, in the adaptation of children to societal norms, or in the assimilation of immigrants into new lands. However, it must be noted that all adaptation entails a corresponding loss of freedom and identity – a baby loses his/her innocence and gains inhibitions once societal acclimation begins, and an immigrant must to an extent give up old culture and customs to commit to adapting to a new one. In many respects, Kafka’s ape’s thoughts and behaviors mimic human psychological desires, intentions, and choices. But in drawing these pronounced parallels between Rotpeter and mankind, Kafka doesn’t bring apes and humans closer together. Rather, he decisively separates the two, based on these same concepts of behavioral adaptation and freedom.

The concept of behavioral adaptation at the expense of identity is one that has been explored vastly in both history and literature, and one Kafka employs front-and-center in “A Report.” Indeed, much of Freudian thought concerns the concept of “ego emergence,” which states that the narcissistic qualities the mind contains will overcome any sense of identity or essence a human possesses, to maintain the welfare of the self. Thus, if this thought is to be believed, the human is at the most base level a narcissist, and will do anything for his or her own well-being. Rotpeter, having been captured from his ape existence in the jungles of Africa, faces two choices; remain in his ape state and face the zoo, a cage, and the loss of physical freedoms, or become a vaudeville stage actor with human mentality and behavior. Of course, Rotpeter chooses to pursue the latter, preserving his comfort and showing a striking ability to adapt to human life, largely forsaking his identity as an ape in the process.

Rotpeter’s behavior, which is initially very base in nature, most resembles that of the children in William Heward’s work Exceptional Children, a work which relates the behavior of special education children to the behaviors of other individuals. Specifically, Heward states that though the children may not be able to speak coherent sentences, or even feed themselves properly, they often demonstrate a (relative) remarkable ability to adapt to unconventional situations, which one would expect to confuse them further (Heward). Heward interpreted this behavior as being a triggered stress adaptation, and this interpretation can similarly describe Rotpeter’s “finding a way out” of his post-capture situation, or as Kafka would call it, “Ausweg.” This theme of finding Ausweg, which literally translates as “way out,” is central to interpreting human adaptive behavior. Ausweg, which can be seen as the escape from and betterment of one’s situation, is what every human lives for. It is a universal motivator. Indeed, a psychologist possessing a Freudian viewpoint would have interpreted the human seeking of Ausweg as further confirmation of mankind’s narcissistic nature.

One of Rotpeter’s specific behaviors, his imitation of those around him, sheds light on the manner in which humans, as well as animals, psychologically adapt to their surroundings. Imitation may be the highest form of flattery, but it is also a form of learning necessary for adaptation and survival. Children in the sensorimotor stage of development attempt to match the sounds, gestures, and facial expressions of an adult model – such as while playing peek-a-boo. Toddlers, for example, will imitate their parents by pretending to get ready for work or school (Meltzoff 29). Meanwhile, these same imitation skills are noticeably deficient in children with autism, rendering them incapable of reaching the same social acclimation as their peers (Wehner 44). In these roles, imitation helps transmit social norms and promote cultural development in children. This is very telling of imitation’s role as an integral human adaptive skill. In “A Report,” imitation is central to Rotpeter’s escape and self-preservation. It is the way he makes himself acceptable and companionable to the humans around him. It is natural behavior for man to imitate, even in the event that the imitation is distasteful. Rotpeter’s incidents in smoking, drinking, and spitting were all distasteful. However, all were important mimicries which helped him along his “way out.”

Like imitation, the cognitive theory of recapitulation (as differentiated from Ernst Haeckel’s biological recapitulation theory, now largely discredited) also plays a strong role in “A Report.” While imitation is a kind of social adaptation theory, recapitulation explores adaptation from a more evolutionary and educational perspective. Cognitive recapitulation is nicely summed-up by philosopher Herbert Spencer, who stated “If there be an order in which the human race has mastered its various knowledge, there will arise in every child an aptitude to acquire these kinds of knowledge in same order” (Spencer 5). Recapitulation theory thus sought to rapidly improve cognition and learning through a curriculum based on the evolutionary order of knowledge acquisition, and through severe discipline. Rotpeter’s method of behavioral adaptation exemplifies this theory; the first actions he learns are spitting, smoking, and drinking, indeed very base behaviors in humans. Additionally, although Rotpeter at first finds alcohol disgusting, severe discipline reverses his initial reaction. After being subjected to repeated punishment at the hands of a sailor for not drinking, he learns to tolerate alcohol. As opposed to social learning and imitation, recapitulation learning is based on concepts such as repetition, order, and punishment. The punishment in particular is representative of Freud’s take on learning through recapitulation.

Once insights into the natural human behavior Rotpeter exhibits have been made, the distinctions between man and ape begin to become clear. Earlier, it was posited that Rotpeter chose learning and adaptation for reason of preservation of physical freedom. However, it is apparent that for every step deeper into the world of humans Rotpeter takes, he is gaining physical freedom, but he is losing something vitally important – mental freedom. By entering civilization, he has submitted to the mental yoke that all humans wear, a yoke that constrains their behaviors and mannerisms. Subsequently, in the process of becoming civilized Rotpeter’s ties with the ape existence become nearly (though not quite) severed. This is where Kafka begins to draw the line between man and ape, a line that borders on psychological freedom. One can’t have both – to be human is to adapt to civilization and, hence, be less free.

Interestingly, Kafka demarcates this line between man and ape by, at first, blurring it. Rotpeter’s experience with alcohol exposes animal tendencies in the human as much as it showcases human learning in the ape. The punishment inflicted by the sailor upon Rotpeter, and the behavior of many of the crew members, is evident of a lower degree of mind. Indeed, the sailor who trained Rotpeter is said to later be admitted to a mental hospital. It may be said that at this point in the story the line between ape and human is quite blurry. As they each retain qualities of the other, which is which? The alcohol further reinforces this mix-up as a symbol of baseness and abandon. Indeed, here it is the ape who abstains from liquor, while the human does not. But if one looks hard enough the line begins to resolve itself; what finally characterizes the human is a high level of behavioral adaptation, seen here in the ape, while the characteristic of psychological freedom, what the ape has lost, is symbolized by human behavior under the influence of alcohol.

By the end of “A Report,” Rotpeter is neither fully human nor fully ape. He spends the day in the company of humans but sleeps with a “half-trained chimpanzee” by night (6). He has made an effort to learn to be human, but nevertheless it has been a forced career. And while he feels increasingly comfortable in the human world, the “gentle puff of air playing at his heels” (7) is a continual reminder of the life he has left forever. It is clear that although Rotpeter lives willingly within the confines of human civilization, he does not appreciate the yoke it imposes upon him. Through references to Rotpeter’s disorientation, and to his being caught between two worlds, Kafka again reminds us how man and animal are undeniably different in their levels of freedom and behavioral adaptation.

Finally, there exists a school of thought (in direct contradiction to Freud, although Kafka with his genius manages to incorporate both theories into one story seamlessly to illustrate a wider view of adaptation) that states that humans are limited in their ability to mentally adapt, largely by pre-determined genetic and physical constraints (Spencer). Rotpeter has indeed come a long way from his ape origins, but is it possible that he still retains some measure of them? Throughout the story the narrator appears very frank, asking for openness and speaking of handshakes, yet there is a sense of contrivance about his report. When all is said and done, Rotpeter does not really claim commonness with humans at all. Indeed, he ridicules the supposed physical freedom of human acrobats on a trapeze, implying it pales in comparison to the mental freedom of apes, and finally asserts that his report is only meant to impart knowledge, distancing himself from his audience. His emphatic statement, “I am from the Gold Coast” (1), further proves that he has not renounced his origins. It seems that howsoever Rotpeter may dress himself up as human, an ape is still an ape in his body, as well as in the deep evolutionary recesses of his mind, limiting his ability to completely adapt to civilization. Similarly, no matter how much a human may acclimate to a social constraint, he/she still retains elements of the freedom of the ape (in one form, we have seen, under the influence of alcohol). As Rotpeter states, “your life as apes, gentlemen…cannot be farther removed from you than mine is from me” (7).

In “A Report to an Academy,” Kafka succeeds masterfully in illuminating both obvious and subtle human adaptive behaviors through the medium of his ape. However, instead of drawing human closer to ape through these likenesses, “A Report” goes deeper and divides them on the twin concepts of behavioral acclimation and psychological freedom. As we have seen, one cannot exist without the other; a gain in one correspondingly offsets a loss in the other. Rotpeter resembles a human in behavior, but yet is not one, as part of him is still attached to a free ape state. By dealing with these two concepts in a humorous yet thorough light, Kafka has made a lasting contribution to the literature of what makes us human – a sense of behavioral adaptation that puts on our yoke of civilization, keeping us from experiencing unadapted psychological freedom.

Literature CitedHeward, William L.. Exceptional children: an introduction to special education. 6th ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Merrill, 2000. Print.Meltzoff, Andrew N.. “Peer Imitation By Toddlers In Laboratory, Home, And Day-care Contexts: Implications For Social Learning And Memory..” Developmental Psychology 29 (): 701-710. Print.Spencer, Herbert. Education: intellectual, moral, and physical.. Paterson, N.J.: Littlefield, Adams, 1963. Print.Wehner, Elizabeth. “Imitation performance in toddlers with autism and those with other developmental disorders.” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 44 (): 763-781. Print.

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The Hunger Artist as a Christ Like Figure

May 16, 2019 by Essay Writer

In A Hunger Artist by Franz Kafka, one can argue the character of the Hunger Artist is an absurdist anti-hero parallel to the heroic figure of Jesus Christ in the Holy Bible. The Hunger Artist is a narration of a “starving, dying art”, and one of the most relative interpretations for its time can be attributed to religion. Although Kafka was born Jewish and later devoted himself to atheism, he had no trouble alluding to things that were central to European society. That being said, “A Hunger Artist” is a Christ-like figure, or a martyr, as Kafka believed, who would absurdly devote himself to religion during the modernist age when there was a declining interest in religion.  

The story opens with “In the last decade, there has been a declining interest in hunger artists”, which possibly may be a reference to the rise of atheism in the nineteen twenties, supported by Kafka’s atheism. First, let’s define what it means to be a hunger artist. A hunger artist in this story is a “an artist who masochistically starves himself for the pleasure of others as an art form”, but could be extended metaphorically to mean “a starving artist of a dying art”. Either way, “starving or pleasing others as an art and suffering for it” or “doing what you want” all pertains to the conundrum of the modernist age where people don’t seem to care unless you are with the times.

Skepticism and uncertainty in the Hunger Artist can also be compared to Christianity. People doubted the Hunger Artist’s fasting just like people doubted Jesus Christ’s words. Those who truly believed would have to believe in the number of days that the Hunger Artist fasted even though it’s physically impossible for one to fast for that long. There’s also the question of the reliability of the narrator, as we question the word of the Bible. Is the Bible really the word of God? And did this narrator really know the Hunger Artist and follow him and know if he ate or not? Is he or she too proud to say anything?

The Hunger Artist’s period of fasting, forty days, alludes to Christ. However, the Hunger Artist chooses to go beyond the maximum period of fasting and fast much longer, which makes him a “Super-Christ” figure. Ironically, after he surpasses Christ, people lose interest in him for nobody can surpass Christ. Both Christ and the Hunger Artist were martyr characters. Both characters starved for many days. Both characters died merciless and painfully. While Christ was murdered, the Hunger Artist practically committed suicide. However, he was dying for the people like Christ. He was sacrificing himself. Christ sacrificed himself for the good of God, while the Hunger Artist did it for an “art”, the only thing he knew, which is similar to Christ.

Some of the Biblical allusions in the Hunger Artist include the two women and the watchers who represent “God” and “the wilderness”. The Hunger Artist was tempted to eat food by the watchers and the women but he never broke. He kept his resilience and remained unbroken. The cage of the Hunger Artist can be compared to Christ on the cross as a state of imprisonment, shame, lack of freedom, although the obvious contrast is the cross was much more significant and attributed to death and holiness while the cage reverts to animalism and barbarianism.

Animals are important to the Hunger Artist and represent “science” and “forces of nature”. When the Hunger Artist is taken to the circus, he is placed near the animal cages, and he doesn’t get much attention. Everyone wants to see the animals. The fate of the Hunger Artist as opposed to the fate of Christ is quite different in that the Hunger Artist wallows in self-pity. He pities himself for his actions. He feels like a miserable wretch. Christ is humble however the Hunger Artist is self-loathing while at the same time proud and narcissistic for he knows nobody can do better than him.

The resurrection of the Hunger Artist is an interesting comparison to Christ’s resurrection. While the Hunger Artist isn’t exactly “resurrected”, he is “replaced” by a wild panther that impresses the crowd so much that they don’t want to go home. Finally, from these nine points we conclude that the Hunger Artist bears a strong parallel to the figure of Christ in the Bible and therefore is taken as one of Kafka’s many parables. The parable is one of atheistic and modernist applications of the early twentieth century.  

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Absurdity, Masochism and Paradox: Unraveling Kafka’s “A Hunger Artist”

April 1, 2019 by Essay Writer

“For he alone knew, what no other initiate knew, how easy it was to fast. It was the easiest thing in the world.” – Kafka’s “A Hunger Artist” What does it mean to willfully fast, or to deny hunger, the most fundamental of human drives? The short story, “A Hunger Artist,” penned by Franz Kafka explores the absurdity of one man’s ability to fast indefinitely with unnatural ease. At the same time, his insatiable appetite for fame and success as the record-breaking hunger artist of his time is unmistakably contradictory to his physically starved state. Throughout the text, the futility of ascribing meaning to our lives is demonstrated by the masochistic and paradoxical nature of the Hunger Artist’s lifetime of fasting. The hunger artist, who paradoxically chooses to give his mortal life meaning by making fasting his profession, is able to go without the most basic of human comforts due to his masochistic convictions. To start, his goal to fast immeasurably is essentially a paradox, since forgoing food is incompatible with the human condition. Although the hunger artist feels “that there were no limits to his capacity for fasting,” (884), the only possible ending for this life story can be death by starvation. And yet, the hunger artist is bent on receiving the admiration of the public for his limitless fasting: “He was quite happy at the prospect of spending a sleepless night with such watchers..” (883). At the same time, Kafka writes, “Nothing annoyed the artist more than such watchers; they made him miserable,” (883). The unfounded “suspicions” of the watchers, which understandably upsets the hunger artist, is believed to be “a necessary accompaniment to the profession of fasting,” (883). In essence, his misery is also the cause for his happiness and vice versa. This twisted relationship with his audience, wherein his sense of validation is based on the reaction of the crowd, reveals a masochistic quality in our protagonist. His life’s work is based on deprivation, self-denial and degradation in the face of an audience. A once-eager audience soon grows restless after forty days, and needs time to refresh their enthusiasm, showing that the hunger artist’s happiness hinges on such fleeting capriciousness- a situation highlighting the absurdity of the world. As he strives to “become the record hunger artist of all time,” the hunger artist’s thoughts after each forty-day bout of fasting reveal his addictive personality- “Why stop fasting at this particular moment..? Why should he be cheated of the fame he would get for fasting longer..?”(884). This ever-lasting ambition to fast continuously, ignoring the fact that it is an unattainable goal of happiness, depicts the hunger artist as gaining gratification through pain and suffering. The final passage of the text, in describing the hunger artist’s death in such a trivial manner, becomes the ultimate commentary on the absurdity, or meaninglessness of life. By this point, the terribly misunderstood hunger artist has fallen out the public’s favor and has resorted to becoming a circus freak. Here, his goal in impressing the public is literally insurmountable, for no one goes to the circus for high art. Set up in a cage as an eyesore alongside the main-show attraction of lively beasts, this is where the hunger artist accomplishes his longest-ever fast and consequently perishes. At long last, he has succeeded in a record-breaking bout of fasting, and the ultimate irony of this is that no one would know; they are too distracted by the animals. More so, the death of the hunger artist is dealt with fleetingly, insultingly so; his body is cleared and immediately a “young panther” is put in. The relative insignificance of the hunger artist’s entire life of drawn-out misery is compounded by Kafka’s narration, “Even the most insensitive felt it refreshing to see this wild creature leaping around the cage that had so long been dreary,” (889). As the hunger artist’s death is eclipsed by the hasty replacement of a “young panther,” the artist soon fades into obscurity. His imagined journey to greatness, the meaning he has given to life through fasting, has been futile. Kafka represents the Hunger Artist as a tragic hero plummeting to his inevitable demise through the paradox of his lifetime artistry in fasting. The hunger artist, in his commitment to artistry, loses all control over his humanity- throughout his career, he has been handled like “a wild animal” (885) by the impresario. The hunger artist experiences alienation from society not just spatially but temporally as well. Stationed in a barred cage, he is physically isolated from the spectators. Temporally, the hunger artist has lost the human grasp of time, which is evidenced by his voracious appetite for even more prolonged fasting. His hunger for success only grows infinitely, even when the world moves on from the fad of “professional fasting,” (882). His masochistic tendencies, in deriving satisfaction from self-denial, are simply an indication of his disjunction from society. While it seems illogical for his happiness to be so dependent on the whims of a faceless crowd, Kafka develops fully the hopelessness of our protagonist’s attempts to ascribe meaning to his life through the metaphor of hunger and appetite.

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Art Versus Life in A Hunger Artist

March 15, 2019 by Essay Writer

In his short story “A Hunger Artist,” Franz Kafka uses the extreme example of the fictional hunger artist to discuss the dichotomy between art and life. Usually, an artist uses his life to create his art. Thus, an artist alienated from the world will use his art to represent alienation, which ironically might bring him closer to the world. Kafka did this by writing about his sentiments of isolation and frustrations with society in stories such as “The Metamorphosis” and his novel The Trial. By writing these stories, Kafka expressed some of his disappointment with the world, and leaves it to his audience to analyze them as such. In this cycle, the artist channels his problems into art to manage his difficulties, and the audience accepts the art, providing the artist social acceptance and relief from solitude. Kafka sheds light on this healthy cycle by portraying the production of art in “A Hunger Artist,” in which the artist’s creation of art does not lead to a positive cycle, because his suffering begets suffering. His desire to be an artist is explained via “his inner dissatisfaction” (246) with the world. The hunger artist does not starve himself because he believes starvation to be a respected art form, but “because I couldn’t find the food I liked” (255). Instead of channeling his problems into creating art, the hunger artist uses himself as canvas and personifies his dissatisfaction, which leads to a lack of separation between artist and art. Without such a separation, the hunger artist depends entirely on the audience’s appreciation in order for the piece to function. In fact, “nothing annoyed the artist more than” the night watchers who paid little attention to him, giving him ample time to sneak food, and “much more to his taste were the watchers who sat close up to the bars…who focused him in the full glare of the electric pocket torch” (245). The artist turns to his audience for approval, and would do, “anything at all to keep [these watchers] awake and demonstrate…that he was fasting as not one of them could fast” (245). He must prove himself to the audience by showing his talent and gaining its approval, and only then, when he is “honored by the world” (249), can the hunger artist consider himself accomplished. However, the more the artist fasts, the more the audience disbelieves he actually does so, which causes him further suffering and leads to a negative smaller cycle within the already detrimental larger cycle of the hunger artist’s production. Although the hunger artist mainly receives negative feedback from the audience, he is only able to live because the audience pays him attention. This point is more obvious when, “the interest in professional fasting…markedly diminished” (243), which eventually leads to the hunger artist’s demise, since no one takes an active interest in his life, allowing him to starve to death. The hunger artist is not closer to the world through his creation process, but finds he can only even survive by creating art and having the audience view it. Instead of using art as an expression of his life, the hunger artist uses his art to live. Thus, he has no life outside of his art. Through the hunger artist, Kafka defines the dangers of depending on art for life. The hunger artist expresses his dissatisfaction with the world by using himself and not an external canvas to create his artwork, forcing a lack of separation between the artist and his art. Therefore, instead of the art depending on the audience, the artist depends on the audience, meaning when the audience’s appreciation for the work dwindles, their appreciation for the artist diminishes as well, leading to the hunger artist’s death. In this work, Kafka provides a prime example of how not to create art, and somewhat resolves the conflict between art and life. Kafka demonstrates that the artist must separate himself from his work by channeling creating something external from the self. Thus, the artist will not be as critically dependent on his work for survival.

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Anorexics and Angels

January 18, 2019 by Essay Writer

In Franz Kafka’s “A Hunger Artist” and in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s ” A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings,” an understanding of the cruelty of mankind is revealed through an examination of the themes and the characters in both of their stories. Although these stories are both written in two different styles, there are a few common threads within them that make them interesting to compare. By comparing these two stories one is able to fully understand the struggles incurred by those individuals who are different from what society considers being normal. The first area within these stories that shares this common thread is the theme of both stories. Kafka and Marquez both focus on society’s fascination with things that are different and unique. However, the theme does not stop there, because in both stories the individuals who are unique are both mistreated. In “A Hunger Artist,” the hunger artist is unique because of his ability to fast for long periods of time. In fact, people in towns would pay money just to have the pleasure of watching him do nothing in his cage, but starve. They wanted to make sure that he did not eat. In fact, they even hired permanent watchers whose only task was “to watch the hunger artist day and night, three of them at a time, in case he should have some secret recourse to nourishment” (Kafka 197). The children were also fascinated by the hunger artist’s ability to refuse food, however, “for their elders he was often just a joke that happened to be in fashion” (Kafka 196). Instead of respecting the hunger artist for his self-control, the public trivialized his “job.” He was placed among the animals at the circus, as nothing more than a freak show. The way the people in the towns treated the hunger artist shows that society abuses those people who are unique for their own entertainment. In the story “A Very Old Many with Enormous Wings,” the same theme of society’s cruelty is also displayed by an old man who looks like an angel. The individual in this story has no specific talent like the hunger artist. He just happens to be a man who does not fit into the “normal” mold of society. When he is found by Pelayo, he “was dressed like a ragpicker. There were only a few faded hairs left on his bald skull and very few teeth in his mouth” (Marquez 441). However, the most abnormal thing about him is not these things, it is the fact that he has enormous wings. When Pelayo and his wife, Elisenda, first notice the man’s wings, their first reaction is to immediately conclude that the man must be an angel. Therefore, the neighbor woman suggests clubbing the man to death. This is a prime example of the “typical” reaction of society to abnormal things: dispose of them. Although Pelayo and Elisenda do not have the heart to kill the man, Pelayo decides to lock the man up in the chicken coop. Once word gets out of this so-called “angel,” people from all over begin to flock to the chicken coop to gawk at the “angel.” Once again Pelayo and Elisenda abuse the man. They charge people money to look at him, and in turn make a profit off of a human being just because he is different. Pelayo and his wife are not the only people who abuse the old man. The people who come to look at him also abuse him. The very first day the old man is found, Pelayo and Elisenda find the neighbors “tossing him things to eat through the wire as if he weren’t a supernatural creature but a circus animal” (Marquez 441). “[T]he cripples pulled out feathers to touch their defective parts with, and even the most merciful threw stones at him, trying to get him to rise so they could see him standing” (Marquez 443). The most awful thing they did to the man is “when they burned his side with an iron for branding steers” (Marquez 443). All of these things are done to this man, just because he does not meet the public’s stereotypes for how a “normal” person should behave and look. Since the people have never seen anything like this before, they automatically treat the man like he is not a human being, but rather an animal. Although the hunger artist has no physical differences, this is exactly the way he is treated too. People are intrigued by his differences, and treat him in an inhumane way. The theme of these two stories it not their only similarity. These two stories’ main characters also show similarities in their daily lives. The first similarity they share is the fact that they are both locked up for the public to view. The hunger artist lives in a “small, barred cage” (Kafka 196). This is so the public can view him at their leisure, and to ensure that he will not sneak food. The old man also lives in a “cage.” However, his cage is a little different from the hunger artist’s cage. He is put in the chicken coop. This was originally intended for safe keeping overnight. However, when Pelayo and his wife see the neighbors’ reaction to the old man, they decide to keep him in the chicken coop. The next area of similarity in their daily lives is the fact that neither of them talks to those looking at them. The hunger artist does not respond to any of the attention that the onlookers give him. Instead, he “sometimes [gave] a courteous nod, [answered] questions with a constrained smile, or perhaps [stretched] an arm through the bars. [H]e paid no attention to anyone or anything” (Kafka 197). The old man with the wings also chooses not to communicate with the people gawking at him. This greatly frustrates the local priest, Father Gonzaga, who determines that the man cannot be an angel since he does not respond to Father Gonzaga’s Latin. The old man talks only one time “in an incomprehensible dialect” (Marquez 441). It is plain to see that neither the hunger artist nor the old man has any desire to communicate with the onlookers. The third area of similarity in their daily lives is that fact that both men stay in their cages at their own will. The hunger artist chose his profession. He enjoys what he does. In fact, the hunger artist desires to be allowed to fast for longer than 40 days. He feels, “[w]hy should he be cheated of the fame he would get for fasting longerÖsince he felt that there were no limits to his capacity for fasting?” (Kafka 198). To the hunger artist, fasting is an honor. The old man also stayed in the chicken coop at his own will. Pelayo does not have anyone guard the chicken coop, so the man is theoretically free to leave whenever he feels like it. The old man proves this by the fact that once the chicken coop is destroyed he still stays with Pelayo and Elisenda. He moves to the shed where he sleeps, and goes in their house during the day, against Elisenda’s will. This shows that both the hunger artist and the old man desire to be in the cages, even though they are both free to leave when they please. The final similarity in both characters’ daily lives is they are both popular until a new attraction comes along. The hunger artist is an attraction that people actually pay to see. They would have a parade for him when he ended his fast, and beautiful women would help him out of the cage. However, the people are only interested in the hunger artist until a new attraction comes along. This new attraction is the animals at the circus. The throngs of people only pass by the hunger artist on their way to see the menagerie. This happens with the old man as well. He is the main attraction for a while, but one day a better attraction comes along. This new attraction is a woman who has been changed into a spider. The crowds of people flock to see her, because “[t]he admission to see her was not only less than the admission to see the angel, but people were permitted to ask her all manner of questions” (Marquez 443). Since the old man does not talk to the people, the spider woman is more appealing than the old man is. Just like the hunger artist, the old man is only popular until something newer, and more bizarre comes along. Kafka and Marquez both address a principle of human behavior: the weirder, or more absurd something is the better the public will like it. Both of these authors offers a new insight into this principle by allowing the reader to view this principle through the eyes of the ëfreak show.’ By doing this the authors allow the reader to feel not only the fascination of the crowd, but also the pain of the individual being taken advantage of. Both of these stories make the reader rethink their views on entertainment at another human being’s expense.

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