Jonathan Layne
Honors English
February 9, 2010

A Hunger Artist

What does this story reveal about alienation? What is alienation? Define it.
Alienation, to me, is to the feeling of separation between someone and an object of desire. A Hunger Artist reveals much about this concept in that it greatly relates to Karl Marx’s manuscript on “Estranged Labor”. There are four kinds of estranged labor, but the type that I think relates to A Hunger Artist goes something like this:

Estrangement occurs when a worker relates to the product of his or her work as an object alien to him or herself. When the worker cannot own the fruits of his labor, he or she becomes estranged the more he or she works.

This sounds extremely comparative to the feelings of the hunger artist because in his case, he struggles to captivate the attention of his audience (fruits of his labor). Or as he put it most eloquently at the end of the story, “I couldn’t find the food I liked.”

What are the causes of alienation in this story? Who is to be blamed?
Alienation is harder to understand in A Hunger Artist because it isn’t obvious. Nobody truly understands the artistry of fasting besides the hunger artist and I don’t feel the audience should be blamed for that. Nobody said he was stupid for fasting – they just didn’t pay attention. The alienation wasn’t deliberate but it was still there. It’s hard to put anyone at fault for alienation in any instance since almost every aspect of life is alienation. There is always a mental disconnect between people because not everyone shares the same cultural values. Fasting is entertaining in that it tests the limits of one’s body but that kind of masochism isn’t revered among the general public – it’s repulsive and depressing.

What symbols, analogies, imagery support the author in communicating these ideas?
The endeavor of the hunger artist is somewhat analogous to the work of others, not only artists, who do not obtain the appreciation they seek for the work they do. Specifically, the hunger artist symbolizes misunderstood dedication and a short-lived piece of entertainment for others.