September 2, 2018
In the three short stories, “A Hunger Artist” by Franz Kafka, “Miss Brill” by Katherine
Mansfield, and “A & P” by John Updike, the themes of being trapped, confined, and imprisoned
are shown continuously throughout. Even though each main character is in a completely different
situation with varying circumstances, they all feel caged to where they are.
“A Hunger Artist”, by Franz Kafka, shows the theme of being trapped most blatantly out
of the three stories. The hunger artist travels with a circus locked in a literal cage with a sign
saying how many days he has gone without food. However, even without his straw filled cage he
is still imprisoned by his greatest enemy: himself. Passersby may believe that he is only being a
hunger artist for a paycheck or even just to prove he can do it, but the sad truth is his own taste
was flawed to the point he could never find any food edible (179). Due to this, the hunger artist
strives to go past his predetermined forty days of fasting, instead of being force fed to keep
himself alive and to keep the public interest (173). The hunger artist knows he is confined to his
cage in the circus, and he finds comfort in that. If it were not for the circus putting him on a high
pedestal for his fasting, he would just be seen as a freak who will not eat. Yes he may be seen as
that anyway, but instead of being shamed for it, he is celebrated.
“Miss Brill”, by Katherine Mansfield, has the theme of being imprisoned just as strongly
as A Hunger Artist, yet it is more hidden. Miss Brill begins her special day of going out to the
gardens like any other Sunday, taking her favorite fox fur out of its box and wearing it proudly.
However, unlike everyone else, she does not go for the attractions such as the band. Miss Brill
prefers to listen to the people around her. This has become such a recurring habit of hers that she
no longer sees herself as just a visitor of the gardens or a listener to the band, she sees herself as
an actress in the background of others lives (266). Miss Brill has decided to put this happy twist
on her situation so she does not have to face the truth. In the era this story is in by the time
women were a certain age they were no longer seen as “wanted” or even “useful”. They were
simply seen as sad spinsters who were not able to get married in their prime. Miss Brill is
trapped in her own societies way of thinking with nothing to set her free. She is, however, forced
to face her own sad truth at the end of the story when she hears a beautiful young couple loudly
ridiculing her. This pulls her out of her happy facade she has made for herself by practically
shoving her reality in her face. She is unwanted and seen as no longer of use to society. The story
reveals her sadness by stating that she went back to her shabby home without even doing her
usual stop for sweets. This sh...