Liu - 1

Michael Liu Peplow English H-II 8 December 2010

Essay [ID Eng2H/DP/205/7 | Arch.12/8/10 by ML/15 M 162] The Unknown Citizen could readily be described as a speculative dystopian poem where the government has rejected individualism on the road to industrialism. In the poem, a citizen who had done nothing outstanding was honored for it. Auden used many literary devices such as metaphors (or lack thereof), symbolism, and irony to demonstrate his ideas on the current direction of society and individualism. The Unknown Citizen had very few metaphors²in fact, only one, an anomaly when compared to most poems. This metaphor occurred in line 4, where the unknown citizen was named a so-called ³modern day saint´ (Auden 4). This was used to show the unknown citizen¶s devotion to the principles of the government (being normal and conforming to the standard), such as a saint was devoted to the principles of his/her religion. This was also ironic, because such religious saints were held in high regard, whereas this citizen¶s name was not even known, nor cared for. The resulting effect was to prepare readers for further irony. Also, this being the only metaphor, the lack of others was startling. However, this dearth of comparisons itself furthers the inherent mundaneness of the poem, and therefore exemplifying Auden¶s idea. Symbolism was more common than metaphors in the poem. Every government branch in the poem paralleled a modern government branch. The Social Psychology workers paralleled social scientists, Producers Research and High-Grade Living parodied modern consumer analyst organizations, and the Eugenist represented eugenic scientists at the time working on genetic

which was bound to produce such mediocre citizens such as JS/07 M 378.Liu . The many institutions mentioned gives the poem¶s setting a very stifling Auden used the symbolism to show how government interference upon the people would suppress creativity and individuality in the population. However. symbolism. there is a massive amount of irony in the poem. . Nearly every statistical fact about JS/07 M 378¶s life was written down and recorded by numerous government branches. thinking that only statistical information dictated the quality of a person¶s life (Auden 28-29). He had not done anything significant. Collectively. the company ³Fudge Motors´ mentioned in the poem. like all good poems. Auden¶s use of literary devices plays a major part in expressing the poem¶s meaning. orthodox citizen possible. 18. the last two lines and the title ironically make obvious the fact that they knew nothing about who he was. representative of all large companies employing factory workers. in the poem. they represented the invasiveness of the government on everyday lives. However.2 filtration (Auden 1. 26). In spite of the lack of other literary devices. His life was not known in the way that a friend would know it. these associations appeared intrusive or even oppressive due to their surveillance upon the people. the unknown citizen had a marble statue erected for him simply for the lack of official complaint for him (Auden Epigraph). he had simply been the most average. Also. which is any bureaucrat¶s goal. Also. and irony effectively bring across dystopian themes of modern society and individualism. His successful employment of metaphors. was used to further the Auden¶s point of suppression of individualism to further industrial efficiency (Auden 8). Such unwarranted praise would not be awarded for today.

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