Treatment based on gender in society can ultimately lead to the unequal treatment and discrimination on a certain gender. In Kafka’s A Hunger Artist, the hunger artist is portrayed as a male with rather disturbing physical features and the unbelievable willpower to continue to fast. When reading the story, I think it’s interesting to note how the hunger artist is treated as merely an object for entertainment purposes, whereas if the hunger artist was a female, the situational contempt for the entertainer may be exchanged to that of pity.
The hunger artist claims that he “captured the attention of the entire city” (Kafka). People view him as a form of presentation or rather a production of fasting at its worst. He’s described as “looking pale” (Kafka) with “his ribs sticking out prominently” (Kafka); however, if the hunger artist was female, I feel that the audience would express sorrow for her current situation. The hunger artist is viewed as a spectacle, yet the observers still aren’t entirely shocked by his physical state. It’s also mentioned that adults view him as merely a joke. When analyzing this statement, it is interesting to see how Kafka shows the hunger artist as being belittled although he is the one that is committed and affixed to a goal that he refuses to break. The observers are convinced he has cheated by eating, yet he states that he could fast far more than forty days if allowed. The treatment of the observers to the hunger artist would be different if he was depicted as women in that the observers would feel compassion for a female figure, whereas the male figure is treated as simply a joke.
In relating back to gender role stereotypes, males are viewed as being able to take care of themselves and be independent, yet women are depicted in contrasting ideals. Due to this nature, I believe that if the hunger artist was depicted as a woman, she would be viewed with sorrow and sympathy due to the fact that women are apparently helpless.