References to spiritual yearning and religious symbolism in "A Hunger Artist" are subtle but pervasive. Critic Meno Spann has analyzed the food imagery in Kafka's writing and concluded that "for Kafka, physical deprivation or hunger represents spiritual hunger and is associated with the 'unknown nourishment' so many of Kafka's characters seek."
The hunger artist is also described as a religious "martyr," although his martyrdom is based on his own professional frustrations rather than any spiritual enlightenment. At the public spectacle which ended each fast, the impresario "lifted his arms in the air above the artist, as if inviting Heaven to look down upon its creature here in the straw, this suffering martyr, which indeed he was, although in quite another sense."
A Hunger Artist