Kafka's unfinished novel, also titled The Missing Person, starts with a promise: "As he entered New York Harbor on the now slow-moving ship, Karl Rossmann, a seventeen-year-old youth who had been sent to America by his poor parents because a servant girl had seduced him and borne a child by him, saw the Statue of Liberty, which he had been observing for some time, as if in a sudden burst of sunlight.". In New York, Karl is taken in by a rich uncle but later thrown out on flimsy pretexts. In search of work, he meets two vagrants who take advantage of him, then finds a job as an elevator boy under the care of the head cook of the Hotel Occidental and ends up as a servant with the former singer Brunelda. Eventually he is hired as a technician at the Natural Theatre of Oklahoma.
The Missing Person is a story of emigration and at the same time an anti-coming-of-age novel: someone seeks his fortune in the New World and becomes a nobody. Kafka describes the social decline of his hero throughout ludicrous adventures while dissecting the American dream with humor and sarcasm. He tells of alienation, loss of world and of the existential quest of a displaced person in the modern world.