The Unknown Citizen
W. H. Auden’s poem entitled “The Unknown Citizen” is a portrayal of a conflict etween indi!idualism and "o!ernment control. “The Unknown Citizen” is a "o!ernment’s !iew of the perfect modern man in an unrealistic society. #n “The Unknown Citizen” the "o!ernment has manipulated human intelli"ence to the point that they ha!e control o!er e!eryone’s li!es and minds. The moti!e ehind the portrayal of an e$ual society is that it will eliminate hatred% en!y and war. While this pro!es true% the numerous side effects such as loss of identity% lack of ori"inality% and loss of personal feelin"s de!elop. The satiric society depicted in “The Unknown Citizen” is the authors attempt to ridicule a political system that tends to depersonalize its citizens and constantly stri!es to create e$uality. The attempt to create an e$ual society to the e&treme makes many "o!ernments more like a dictatorship or communist system rather than a democracy. The society portrayed in the poem takes the notion of perfection and e$uality to the e&treme. #n the poem Auden uses sarcasm to e&press an o sessi!e and mindless state that only knows its citizens y num ers and letters% and e!aluates their worth with''''''' The title of the poem is rather ironic. Auden discusses how e!eryone knows e!erythin" a out this specific citizen and then names the poem “The Unknown Citizen”. The fact that Auden considers the man to e (unknown( speaks oth to the (silent ma)ority( and the lack of a !oice in "o!ernment social policy. #f the citizen is popular and worthy enou"h to ha!e the state uild a monument to honour him% how could he remain unknown* The “unknown” part of the citizen is not only his name ut also his inner self in a society that does not honour indi!iduals ein" hum le and honest. The “unknown” that Auden may want to address is the indi!idualism that is unknown to this society of “the modern man”. Without indi!iduality% there would not e any free thinkers with dreams to accomplish somethin" worthwhile. #n “The Unknown Citizen” the state seems to e!aluate their worth with statistics% and has a formulaic standard for !irtuous li!in". The “+ureau of ,tatistics” and the “-roducers .esearch” are two institutions descri ed in the poem that keep track of all aspects of life. .ather than personal information% the important facts are the thin"s the citizens do which conform to the standards set forth y the state. /!en the perfect num er of children is dictated y the state.
…………………………………………. Poetry analysis: The Unknown Citizen, by W.H.Auden
0The Unknown Citizen0 pertains to Auden(s middle period of creation. #t was the time of authoritarianism in /urope% and amid dictatorship in the !arious countries in /urope% 1an as a rational indi!idual was losin" his stance% distincti!eness and identity. The definition of the a!era"e citizen was confined to how well he conformed% how far he was predicta le and how smoothly he rendered himself a co" in the wheel of society.
aint( is cate"orized as an old fashioned word that has lost the connotations that olden times "ifted it with in the modern day conte&t. His reaction to the ad!ertisements was typical% his responses to the $uestionares were as anticipated. The -roducers .ocial -sycholo"y. Here% the unknown citizen(s life is constrained y the dictums and doctrines of the state.ocial -sycholo"y workers foundThat he was popular with his mates and liked a drink. #nsurance -olicies are an inherent part of 1odern day life%and the speaker had his share of those. He ou"ht the newspaper and was updated a out the current affairs. He is said to ha!e ser!ed the 6reater Community that comes across as the +ureaucracy.. .. His ein" socia le is the e!idence for his sound . His statement of health is assessed y the hospital records. #t reaffirms that modern day 6ods are replaced y usiness firms that at once rule the roost. He was not a sca ( that acked off from any unioun strike.+esides% he is shown to e politically correct% conformin" to the !iewpoint of society. He is said to ha!e satisfied his +oss and the e!aluation of his performance depended primarily on his employer(s )ud"ment. .
.u se$uently he is attri uted with certificates of conduct. His employer is named as 4ud"e 1otors #nc. 4urthermore% he is acknowled"ed as (unknown(. The state is said to construct( him% as he is descri ed% at the outset% in terms of statistics. #n the attempt to please the state% man is essentially dehumanized and demar"inalized. There is a predetermined formula for his li!in" ased on these.hah)ahan to his etter3half 1umtaz 1ahal. /lse% he is du ed as ein" odd(. Therefore% the identity of man in the modern conte&t is "rounded on his materialistic march< And had e!erythin" necessary to the 1odern 1an% A phono"raph% a radio% a car and a fri"idaire. The indi!idual is paid a tri ute y constructin" a mar le monument for him 2ust as the Ta) 1ahal the poetry in mar le( was "ifted y . A"ain% note that his indi!idual psycholo"y is rele"ated to the ack"round. He was in a hospital once %and left it cured as per his health card. The only e&ceptions are the war% and day he retired. The social psycholo"y workers acknowled"ed that he was popular with friends and en)oyed drinks with them.8et he wasn(t a sca or odd in his !iews%4or his Union reports that he paid his dues%95ur report on his Union shows it was sound:And our . Howe!er% 1umtaz 1ahals life was filled with lissful lo!e.i!in" record fi"ures on the standard of amenities utilized y the people% and "rade their li!in" standards from them. . The modern3day3definition of the saint therefore suits the citizen aptly. 5nly his presence is acknowled"ed% not his indi!iduality. 7oes this imply that he did not deser!e e!en retirement* He worked in a factory and ne!er "ot fired%+ut satisfied his employers% 4ud"e 1otors #nc. #n the earlier times a person who su mitted to 6od was a saint% now the one who conforms to society is.The e"innin" of the poem in the passi!e !oice is indicati!e of the citizen(s lack of initiati!e. The capitalization e&emplifies the authority of the same.esearch and Hi"h36rade .( parodyin" the name of the automo ile "iant 4ord 1otors #nc.
He poses two rhetorical $uestions at the end< 0Was he free* Was he happy*0 0Happiness( and 4reedom( are two !ery indi!idual and e&tremely personal choices. . He "a!e politically correct( and diplomatic responses to those who conducted 6allup polls. /rnest Hemin"way% T. W. Auden durin" ?@AB% is a poem where the speaker% a representati!e of the state or "o!ernment% directs a speech to the audience a out a monument ein" erected for a citizen. ''''''''''''. He was a master% for e&le% of
. He ne!er interfered with the education of their children y the teachers% their stand was ne!er $uestioned. Analysis of The Unknown Citizen y W.H. Auden% howe!er% did the opposite. What one finally arri!es at is this< The customs of society are made for 1an% 1an is not made for the customs of society. #n honour of the monument for the citizen% a speech is "i!en as a tri ute to his doin"s. The ..cott 4itz"erald are three famous e&les. This man is depicted as a man who o eyed the law and ne!er did anythin" incorrect% and he was known for takin" part in many "o!ernment ha ''''''''' The Unknown Citizen: In A Nutshell 7urin" the ?@CBs and DBs% many American writers left the states to ecome expatriates o!erseas% particularly in /urope. Auden wrote 0The Unknown Citizen0 while li!in" in >ew 8ork% and the poem "i!es e!idence of his culture shock when suddenly confronted with American3style chaos and consumerism. As a poet% Auden is a chameleon capa le of writin" in many different forms and styles. Written in free !erse% althou"h usin" many couplets% this poem is a poem that descri es the life of a certain person throu"h his records and documents.His intelli"ence is appraised ased on his capacity to adapt to installment schemes. . Auden “The Unknown Citizen”% written y W. Auden% howe!er% uses the fact that the state is honourin" someone for ein" normal to criticise his society. >e!ertheless% the state chooses to answer these si"nificant $uestions too.. When the country was for peace he assumed the "ar of a pacifist= when the nation was at war he put foward the fi"htin" spirit.H. He was an /n"lishman who mo!ed ack to 0the colonies0 9the U. The /u"enist determined that his num er of children was )ust ri"ht for him= what he and his wife thou"ht a out it was immaterial. /liot% and 4. This citizen is portrayed as a normal and a!era"e human ein" who is ein" honoured for ein" normal.tate. +y emphasizin" certain "rammatical con!entions and the structure the author e&plains the true meanin" of this poem% and the unidentified citizen. “The Unknown Citizen” is a poem that directs an epitaph to a common man in the country.tate is formed for 1an% 1an is not formed for the . He is considered a 0modernist0 writer% ut his work is unlike that of any other poet of the past century.: in ?@D@% at the hei"ht of his creati!e powers.H.. At a time when many poets were e&perimentin" with o scure forms and new ways of usin" lan"ua"e% much of Auden’s poetry had more popular appeal.
a car and a frigidaire" Our researchers into . But satisfied his employers. Fudge 'otors (nc" )et he wasn*t a scab or odd in his views.the rhymin" couplet 9AA% ++% etc.lan And had everything necessary to the 'odern 'an. #t’s not the most 0intellectual0 of Auden’s works% ut that doesn’t make it any less powerful to read. 0The Unknown Citizen0 is proof that "reat poetry doesn’t ha!e to take itself seriously all the time. %hich our #ugenist says was the right number for a parent of his generation" And our teachers report that he never interfered with their education" %as he free3 %as he happy3 The 4uestion is absurd2 Had anything been wrong.roducers /esearch and High. The poem is written in the !oice of a fictional "o!ernment ureaucrat E someone who sits at a desk and shuffles papers all day E whose decisions affect the li!es of people he has ne!er met. he was for peace2 when there was war. For in everything he did he served the reater !ommunity" #$cept for the %ar till the day he retired He wor&ed in a factory and never got fired. For his +nion reports that he paid his dues.rade 0iving declare He was fully sensible to the advantages of the (nstalment . he went" He was married and added five children to the population. he was a saint. Auden
(To JS/07 M 378 This Marble Monument Is Erected by the State)
He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be One against whom there was no official complaint. And all the reports on his conduct agree That. a radio.olicies ta&en out in his name prove that he was fully insured. A phonograph.Our report on his +nion shows it was soundAnd our Social .ublic Opinion are content That he held the proper opinions for the time of year1 %hen there was peace. 0The Unknown Citizen0 is so accessi le it almost sounds like an ela orate )oke.:% the simplest rhyme scheme in /n"lish. The Unknown Citizen
W. we should certainly have heard"
''''''''''''''' The Unknown Citizen Summary
. '''''''''''. in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word. H.sychology wor&ers found That he was popular with his mates and li&ed a drin&" The .ress are convinced that he bought a paper every day And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way" . . +ut the poem doesn’t sound as pessimistic or tortured as either of these no!els #t uses "ood old3fashioned humor to protest the num in" effects of modern life. 8ou could consider it a poetic !ersion of 6eor"e 5rwell’s 1984 or Aldous Hu&ley’s Brave New World% in that it concerns a +i" +rother3like state that knows e!erythin" a out its citizens e&cept the thin"s that really matter. And his Health-card shows he was once in hospital but left it cured" Both .
0 4irst% the not3so3friendly3soundin" 0+ureau of . ''''''''''.oldier% it is the soldier’s physical remains% or dead ody% that cannot e identified.tate is
. He couldn’t ha!e een unhappy% thou"h% ecause otherwise the "o!ernment would ha!e heard. With the related concept of the Unknown . How does the practice of /u"enics or population control affect indi!idual identity in a society* D. 7o you think the Unknown Citizen would ha!e anythin" to talk a out at dinner parties* 7oes he ha!e any fun* A. He elon"ed to a union and paid his dues% and he liked to ha!e a drink from time to time. The Unknown Citizen Themes
Little Words.tatistics0 says that 0no official complaint0 was e!er made a"ainst him. +ut for the Unknown Citizen% it is more that his life was so con!entional that he did not distin"uish himself in any way from his fellow citizens. He went to the hospital once E we don’t know what for E and ou"ht a few e&pensi!e appliances. He would "o with the flow and held the same opinions as e!eryone else re"ardin" peace and war. His list of stirrin" accomplishments "oes on< he ou"ht a newspaper and had normal reactions to ad!ertisements. #n fact% the only thin" the "o!ernment doesn’t know a out the "uy is whether he was 0free0 and 0happy%0 two utterly insi"nificant% tri!ial little details. ?. #s the Unknown Citizen a specific indi!idual% or )ust a unch of statistics thrown to"ether* C. 1ore than that% the "uy was a !erita le saint% whose "ood deeds included ser!in" in the army and not "ettin" fired. /!en your town’s 4ourth of 2uly parade is a sta"ed political e!ent.0 The poem consists of se!eral different kinds of people and or"anizations wei"hin" in on the character of our dear 0Citizen. >ow% 0political0 doesn’t ha!e to ha!e a ne"ati!e connotation 9who doesn’t lo!e free candy and ead necklaces on the 4ourth of 2uly*:% ut in this poem% the . There must e thousands% e!en millions% of Unknown Citizens out there% a out whom little can e said e&cept that they didn’t "et in anyone’s way. 5n the other hand% you mi"ht think that there is nothin" wron" with ein" 0unknown%0 and that the poet is ein" elitist. Who decides what 0normal0 eha!ior is within a society* 7oes ha!in" an identity simply refer to the way we de!iate from the norm= for e&le% y ha!in" 0odd !iews0* Manipulation 1onuments and pu lic cele rations are always political.We learn that the words we are a out to read are written on a statue or monument dedicated to 0The Unknown Citizen. He had fi!e kids% and we’re sure they were )ust lo!ely. Big Ideas
Identity +y definition% the Unknown Citizen has no identity.
#t tries to con!ince the ima"inary reader to e more like the Unknown Citizen.a creepy% manipulati!e ureaucracy that is most concerned with pre!entin" odd alls from "ettin" in the way with the status $uo. And% of course% thin"s are complicated y the fact that the poem seems to e set in America ut was written y an /n"lishman. ?. ?. What is the relation etween his passi!e eha!ior and his consumer ha its*
. Auden’s poem falls more toward the latter end of the spectrum. Who is in control in the society depicted in 0The Unknown Citizen. What do you think the 6reater Community represents in this poem* #s it a nation* #s it some smaller "roup* A lar"er "roup* C.o they ha!e created this e&pensi!e mar le monument to the landest person in the country% the one least likely to mess thin"s up for those in power.0 5ther people think ar"ument and dissent are the si"ns of a true patriot. 7oes his wartime ser!ice run counter to his passi!ity* D. What is the difference etween a 0modern0 and an 0old3fashioned0 saint* Can an old3 fashioned saint e a patriot* Passivity The Unknown Citizen is called a modern3day 0saint0 y the . 8ou may choose to disa"ree with Auden’s perspecti!e% or you could say% 0. Attackin" the conformity of middle3class America has always een a fa!orite sport of intellectuals% and you can find tons of more contemporary e&les% like the 5scar3winnin" mo!ie American Beauty. Could his passi!ity merely mean that he’s really happy and content* A. Why is it important that he ne!er interfered with his children’s education* A.i"ht onF0 This is the kind of poem that attles conformity y pro!okin" stron" opinions from its readers. The inscription on the monument E the poem E tells us almost nothin" a out the man to whom it is dedicated.oldier* How does the metaphor work* A. His most potentially heroic deed is ser!in" in the army durin" a war% ut does ser!in" in a war automatically make you a hero% e!en if you were only doin" what e!eryone else did* 5n the whole% the Unknown Citizen elon"ed to the faceless masses% from his consumer ha its to his lo!e of ha!in" 0a drink0 with his mates. . Who enefits most in a ureaucratic system* What does it take to "et inside the ureaucracy*
Patriotism .0 C. How mi"ht the 0mar le monument0 e a form of manipulatin"* Who is it intended to manipulate* D. ?. 7o you think it’s appropriate to compare an a!era"e% anonymous middle3class American to the Unknown . Ha!e you e!er heard the ar"ument that uyin" thin"s is patriotic* What does this mean* 7o you a"ree* D.tate% ut it isn’t clear )ust what he has done that is so worthy of praise. Who decides what the interests of the 6reater Community are* 7oes this "roup e&clude anyone* #s indi!idual identity at odds with it* These are a few of the distur in" $uestions that the poem raises in relation to patriotism.ome people say% 01y country% ri"ht or wron". Where in the poem does the Unknown Citizen take action% and where does he merely react to thin"s* C. The poem tells us that 0in e!erythin" he did he ser!ed the 6reater Community%0 ut we’re not sure what this means.
Which he didn’t% considerin" that he was also a whiz with more complicated forms of rhyme. How would you descri e Auden’s style* 7oes it sound like anythin" you ha!e read efore* #s it consistent* 7id you lau"h out loud at any parts of the poem* G. These types of poems can e sad and mopey or "rand and cele ratory. #f someone were to write a poem on a monument dedicated to you% what would it say* How are you like or unlike the Unknown Citizen* 7o you ha!e any 0odd !iews0* A.i"mund 4reud0 and 0#n 1emory of W+ 8eats. -arts of the poem o !iously sound old3fashioned 90fri"idaire%0 0/u"enics%0 etc. The poem was written in ?@D@% and some critics ha!e found parallels with the rise of fascist% authoritarian "o!ernments in /urope. And% )ust so you know% Auden didn’t write satiric ele"ies e&clusi!ely= he also wrote two of the est heartfelt ele"ies of the CBth century< 0#n 1emory of . 0The Unknown Citizen0 is of the "rand and cele ratory !ariety% ut it’s also a satire% which means that it is makin" fun of the person it pretends to cele rate. The speaker of the poem thinks he is payin" a lot of nice comments% ut most of his compliments amount to sayin" that the UC ne!er caused anyone any pro lems. We know that he’s dead ecause the speaker refers to him in the past tense% and also ecause the monument for 0The Unknown Citizen0 reminds us of 0The Tom of the Unknown .tate0 of the poem a fascist state% or is it merely a su tle parody of democratic and socialist "o!ernments* D. There’s not much that’s "rand a out the Unknown Citizen. #s the poem a criticism of American life in particular% or could it apply to other cultures* 7oes America ha!e e$ui!alents to a 0+ureau of . #nstead% it alternates etween a few different% simple rhyme schemes.oldier%0 which was created to honor soldiers who died in attle ut whose remains were ne!er identified.''''''''.
Satiric Elegy in Rhyme
An 0ele"y0 is a poem a out a dead person. The simplicity of Auden’s rhymes is strikin"% as if he had nothin" to pro!e.tatistics%0 a 0/u"enist%0 and 0researchers into -u lic 5pinion0* C.
. #s the 0.0 This is called 0damnin" with faint praise%0 ecause the praise is so weak and half3hearted that we know it’s )ust maskin" his utter insi"nificance. When people complain that his poetry doesn’t rhyme anymore% you can point them ack to Auden’s work. +ut% on the whole% is it still rele!ant today* 7o "o!ernments know more or less a out citizens efore than they did in the ?@DBs* What a out corporations* '''''''''.0 At a time when many poets were throwin" themsel!es fully into unrhymed free !erse% Auden was happily continuin" the tradition of writin" in rhyme. He sounds like the "uy who a"rees with e!erythin" and whom e!eryone calls 0a nice person. Howe!er% he was far from a con!entional poet% and 0The Unknown Citizen0 doesn’t follow a standard rhyme scheme. The Unknown Citizen Questions ?. His rhymes don’t sound old3fashioned% either% althou"h sometimes they seem ironic.:.
. #n the future% whene!er you hear the tricky3 soundin" term anapest% think of the first two lines of 0’Twas the >i"ht +efore Christmas%0 which has ei"ht perfect anapests in a row< 0’Twas the >#6HT efore CH.in" not /Jen a 15U. 4inally% the rhythm of the poem rou"hly centers on the anapest% a metrical foot that has two unstressed eats followed y a stressed eat. .
. throu"h the H5U.The poem e"ins with an A+A+ pattern% ut then switches to a rhymin" couple 9AA% ++% etc. .Tmas and A./% I not a C.0 >ow% if this meter sounds corny to you% then you’re on to somethin".ome of the rhymes are sandwiched etween other rhymes./.#.T#. Check out lines H3?D% which follow the pattern A++CCA. . 8ou think he’s not "oin" to rhyme anythin" with 0#nc.0% ut then% fi!e lines later% he comes at you with 0drink.0 Auden doesn’t e!er use that many anapests in a row% ut they are pretty common in the poem% such as at the e"innin"% 0He was 45U>7 y the +U./Ature was .emem er that this is a dramatic poem% and the fictional speaker is a "o!ernment ureaucrat% so we would e&pect it to sound a it corny% like somethin" you mi"ht read on a "reetin" card'or a monument.eau . .:% after which he starts hoppin" around a lot.0 These two words are so far away that you mi"ht not e!en realize he was rhymin"% ut we et your inner ear did.