A Hunger Artist

by: Franz Kafka

Important Quotations Explained

1. When . . . some leisurely passer-by stopped . . . and spoke of cheating, that was in its way the stupidest lie ever invented by indifference and inborn malice, since it was not the hunger artist who was cheating, he was working honestly, but the world was cheating him of his reward.

This quotation, occurring toward the end of the story when the hunger artist joins the circus, epitomizes the misunderstanding that plagues the hunger artist throughout his career. The casual spectator’s “inborn malice” refers to the spectators’ heartless dismissal of the hunger artist’s suffering as well as to their inability to identify with anything outside their familiar view of the world. To these people, the hunger artist’s integrity is either false or a farce, and they quickly lose interest. This development suggests that crowds are fickle in their attention and demonstrates how alienated the hunger artist is from society. This passage is especially significant because the tone reveals the hunger artist’s viewpoint more than at any other place in the story. The hunger artist’s indignation indicates that he honestly remains convinced of his ambition’s worth. This delusional belief comes into serious question only a page later, as the hunger artist finally starves himself to death.