Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 956
The narrator lives in Kristiania, the capital city of Norway, where he suffers greatly from hunger. When he awakens in the morning, he looks around his spartan, drafty room for something to eat but as usual finds nothing. He knows that his condition is becoming desperate. He has looked in vain for work, and he took most of his belongings to the pawnshop. His only other source of income is the occasional sale of a story or article to one of the local newspapers.
After getting out of bed, the narrator starts walking the streets of the city. He feels bad because old friends seem to shun him, thinking that he is going to ask them for money. He is embarrassed because he is unable to give even the smallest coin to a beggar. His sense of shame leads him to take his vest to a pawnshop that he did not visit before, after which he gives most of the money from the vest to the beggar.
While thinking about his writing projects, the narrator behaves erratically. He tells gratuitous lies to strangers and accosts two unfamiliar women, one of whom takes note of him. After a fruitless day, he returns home to find a letter from his landlady, in which she demands the next month’s rent. When the narrator awakens the next morning, he can feel the influence of artistic inspiration. While still in the grip of this emotion, he manages to write down a lengthy and, to his mind, promising sketch. Since he has no money left, he decides to move out of his room. Carrying his few belongings, he goes to a newspaper editor to sell his story. The editor is unable to find time to read the piece, however, so the narrator spends the night in the nearby woods.
The next day he is even hungrier. He tried to borrow money for food from friends, and he applies for work, but without success. He plans to spend the night on a bench. When he is interrupted by a policeman, he walks back to his old lodgings, where he finds a letter waiting for him from the newspaper editor, who praises his manuscript and informs him that he will pay ten crowns for it. This gives the narrator money for food and other necessities for a while.
Two weeks later the money is used up, and the narrator is starving again. He is hallucinating about finding money in the streets, about his current writing project, which seems extremely promising to him, and about the young woman with whom he spoke two weeks earlier. The lack of food makes him ill. He looks emaciated and is shivering with fever. In this condition he is found by a police officer and taken to the station, where he is put in jail for the night.
By the time he is released the following morning, the narrator has not eaten for three days. He starts walking the streets again and becomes more and more disoriented. Having tried to borrow money for food from several acquaintances, he tries unsuccessfully to sell another article. He finally finds an old friend who takes pity on him by pawning his watch so that the narrator can have something on which to live.
A week passes, and the narrator no longer has any money. His health is very poor, as he loses much of his hair, is troubled by headaches, and becomes very nervous. A week with nourishing food has, however, given him the strength to start several essays, on which he works feverishly. When he tries to sell one of them, however, he is told that it is too complex...
(The entire section contains 956 words.)
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