A Hunger Artist

The Audience / Public Character Analysis

Comprised of different people at different times, the audience defines what the hunger artist’s work means outside of his own perceptions and beliefs. In the hey-day of hunger artistry, the audience is huge. Children “watch open-mouthed, holding each other by the hand for safety,” in awe and fear of the hunger artist. Adults, on the other hand, feel either that the act is a frivolous bit of fun, or distrust whether the hunger artist’s fasts are really as long as is claimed. Despite their suspicions, the audience verifies how many days the hunger artist fasts by keeping vigil, but they don’t take the role too seriously. The audience’s tastes change with the times, and by the end of the story they don’t care much for the hunger artist’s act anymore. They’re much more interested in the extravaganza of the circus, and the last image of the story is the audience clustered around the hunger artist’s old cage, now holding the more impressive figure of the panther.

The Audience / Public Quotes in A Hunger Artist

The A Hunger Artist quotes below are all either spoken by The Audience / Public or refer to The Audience / Public. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Artist and Society Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Schocken Books edition of A Hunger Artist published in 1995.
A Hunger Artist Quotes

…scorning the use of a chair he sat on the scattered straw, pale, in a black vest, with startlingly protruding ribs, now nodding politely, answering questions with a strained smile, or poking his arm through the bars so that its thinness might be felt, but repeatedly collapsing into himself, not caring about anything or anyone.

Related Symbols: The Cage
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile

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He much preferred those invigilators who sat right in front of his bars, who were not content with the dim night-light in the hall, but aimed at him the beams of electric torches that the manager had left at their disposal…What made him happiest of all was when the morning came and a lavish breakfast was brought up to them at his expense, on which they flung themselves with the healthy appetite of men who had spent an entire night without rest.

Related Symbols: The Cage
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

No one was capable of spending every day and every night with the hunger-artist as an invigilator without a break, and therefore no one could know from the direct evidence of his own senses whether the hunger artist had starved himself without a break, without a lapse; only the hunger-artist himself was in a position to know that, only he therefore could be the spectator completely satisfied by his own hunger.

Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

He had never yet—that people had to concede—left his cage of his own free will. The maximum period of starvation had been set by the manager at forty days, he permitted no longer stints than that, not even in major cities, and for a very good reason. He had learned from experience that by gradually intensified publicity the interest of a city could be kept alive for forty days, but at that point the public failed, there was a perceptible drop in the level of interest.

Related Symbols: The Cage
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

So then on the fortieth day the door of the flower-garlanded cage was thrown open, an excited audience filled the amphitheatre, a brass band played, two doctors entered the cage to perform the necessary tests on the hunger artist, the results were relayed to the hall by means of a megaphone, and finally two young ladies, thrilled to have been chosen for the task, came to lead the hunger artist down a couple of steps to where a small table had been laid with a carefully assembled invalid meal.

Related Symbols: The Cage
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Because by then the shift in taste referred to above had taken place; it was almost sudden; perhaps there were profounder reasons for it, but who cared to find them out; be it as it may, one day the pampered hunger artist saw himself abandoned by the pleasure-seeking public which now flocked to different displays.

Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

...the hunger artist starved himself as he had once dreamed of doing, and he succeeded quite effortlessly as he had once predicted, but no one counted the days, no one knew how great his achievement was, not even the hunger artist himself, and his heart grew heavy. And if once in a while a passer-by stopped, and mocked the old calendar and said it was a swindle, that was the most insulting lie that indifference and native malice could have come up with.

Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“I always wanted you to admire my starving,” said the hunger artist. “We do admire it,” said the overseer placatingly. “But you’re not to admire it,” said the hunger artist. “All right, then we don’t admire it,” said the overseer, “why should we not admire it?”

Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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The Audience / Public Character Timeline in A Hunger Artist

The timeline below shows where the character The Audience / Public appears in A Hunger Artist. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
A Hunger Artist
The Artist and Society Theme Icon
The Meaning of Existence Theme Icon
Art, Entertainment, and Capitalism Theme Icon
...most successful in his field. Back then, “the whole town got involved with the hunger-artist.” People keep vigil day and night, sitting in front of the cage, fascinated by the hunger... (full context)
The Artist and Society Theme Icon
Art, Entertainment, and Capitalism Theme Icon
Though some adults see him as “just a bit of fun,” the hunger artist is deeply and morbidly... (full context)
The Artist and Society Theme Icon
As well as those spectators, the hunger artist is also watched by a publicly-nominated team of “warders,” who observe him... (full context)
The Artist and Society Theme Icon
The Meaning of Existence Theme Icon
...starving “was the easiest thing in the world.” Even when he tells this to the public, they either think he is being modest or is merely a cheat. (full context)
The Artist and Society Theme Icon
Art, Entertainment, and Capitalism Theme Icon
...final day of the fasts, the manager orchestrates a big, garish ceremony to entertain the audience. There are brass bands, the cage is “flower-garlanded,” and doctors theatrically examine the hunger artist.... (full context)
The Artist and Society Theme Icon
The Meaning of Existence Theme Icon
...is how the hunger artist lives for many years: “in apparent splendor,” and drawing huge crowds. But the hunger artist is rarely happy, because no one really respects or truly understands... (full context)
Art, Entertainment, and Capitalism Theme Icon
The impresario has a crafty solution to these angry outbursts. He explains to these concerned spectators that the hunger artist’s fury is indeed the result of his lengthy starvations. Furthermore, the... (full context)
The Artist and Society Theme Icon
Art, Entertainment, and Capitalism Theme Icon
Once the popularity of hunger artistry has fallen a few years later, the public talk about why this happened, surprised that it had done so almost imperceptibly. It was... (full context)
Art, Entertainment, and Capitalism Theme Icon
...instead is “left outside in a readily accessible spot next to the animal stalls.” Most people only look at him in the intermissions of the main circus performance, on their way... (full context)
The Artist and Society Theme Icon
The Meaning of Existence Theme Icon
Art, Entertainment, and Capitalism Theme Icon
Neglected by the circus staff and the audience, who would rather watch the animals, the hunger artist is finally free from the forty-day... (full context)
The Artist and Society Theme Icon
The Meaning of Existence Theme Icon
Art, Entertainment, and Capitalism Theme Icon
...replace the hunger artist with a “young panther,” which quickly catches the imagination of the spectators, and which seems “not to miss freedom” now that it has all the food it... (full context)