2. “If I had found [the food I liked], believe me, I should have made no fuss and stuffed myself like you or anyone else.” These were his last words, but in his dimming eyes there remained the firm though no longer proud persuasion that he was still continuing to fast.

This quotation, from the end of the story, exposes the contradiction implicit in the hunger artist’s work: he has given up food only to gorge himself on the appreciation he longs for from others. The only thing that the hunger artist claims to want is the public’s admiration. When this admiration, which has never been enough, is completely removed, the hunger artist has nothing on which to sustain himself and eventually dies. The hunger artist’s life is ultimately a sham. The transcendence he always yearned for was unavailable because he worked for it under a misperception: that fasting could bring nourishment. No matter how long he fasted, and no matter how much recognition he received, the end result could only be death. The spiritual nourishment he longed for, even if he had received it, could not sustain his physical body.