*Kristiania (Christiana). Norway’s capital city (now Oslo) is the destination for many young writers who wish to capitalize on their supposed talent and become rich and famous. The young narrator of Hunger is one of those who struggles to make ends meet in the big and unfeeling city. He rarely has enough to eat, and his consequent hunger leads to erratic behavior. The room he lives in does not protect him from the elements. When he cannot find work, he is forced to sell his belongings at a pawnshop, borrow money from friends, or beg on the street. A pawnbroker is amused when the young writer attempts to sell the buttons from his coat.
The city is made up of many different types of people, including beggars, beautiful girls, policemen, pawnbrokers, editors, and managers. Struggling to get his writing projects sold, the narrator is worn down by the city’s indifference to him and his needs. He seems doomed to failure in this urban environment and must try to earn a living doing other work that he is not trained to do. The industrial city does not need artists. The narrator is not suited for city life. His own worst enemy, he is incapable of playing by the rules, of putting his life in order.
Hamsun based a good deal of the novel on his own desperate experiences living in Kristiania during the early 1880’s, as well as the time he spent in Chicago, Illinois, during the mid-1880’s. The...
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