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The Unknown Citizen

W.H. Auden

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Added by: des. k.
i think it's jus down to a simple saying: Ignorance is bliss. By not lettting the citizen think so much, just give him the "prescription" for a good life. It benefits both him and the Government. He is happy, the Government is happy because they have no one who makes trouble for them =)
Added by: Troy
At the beginning, the poem already states that it was a man that has died. He served his community with great desire and dignity. He was a saint, meaning that he was a guy that did his duties and is in heaven. This man was an ordinary man who did what a normal man would do, and what an ordinary would have. He owned a record player, had a radio, and had a refrigerator. He went to war when he had to, just like the people who served in the World Warís and in the Vietnam War. He left his home to do these things for his country. The people of today, of my age, might have to do the same thing. We are on a brink of war as of now. I can sort of relate of what was going through this manís mind. The only thing different is that I am not married and I donít have any children. The poem doesnít give you his personal details of his life. They just give the statistics, which is weird.

At the end of the poem, the ask, ď Was he free? Was he happy?Ē (Pg. 591; line 38). We donít know if he was happy with his life. We donít know that he was free either. All we know is that he grew up and did what every man does. Are we really a statistic, and if we are, is this right? Personally, I think that we should be more than that. People should know the statistics, but they should know more. When you go to a funeral, or look in the newspaper at the obituaries, they just tell you where they were born, what they did, and how they died. That is all that is said. Is this what you want when you die, or do you want something more than that? I am sure to you that this man would have probably wanted more.
Added by: iLiPs'
"The Unknown Citizen" by W.H. Auden grieves the common man whose personality and character is unknown by society except as a typical percentage. The whole poem talks about what "reports" say about him and what was normal about him, but that was all that they knew. "His reactions to advertisements were normal in every way" (L.15). Meaning that he was your everyday, average man with nothing special about him. Nothing of his personality makes him stand out of the crowded multitude. "That he held the proper opinions for that time of year" (L.23). The "unknown citizen" is an easily swayed sort of fellow, who is a follower and never a leader. Perhaps, he didn't have his own opinions about issues and things that were going on. He relied on what the media and articles "fed" him, but otherwise he was none the wiser about his surroundings. "Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:/ Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard" (L. 28- 29). If there was some component or fact in his life that was amiss in this report on the unknown citizen, the public would surely have heard about it. Perhaps these lines are saying that Society likes to ignore each citizen's individual quirks and uniqueness because it just becomes too messy and is different and often cumbersome thing to report about. Society has a mold, in which it wants all its citizens to form.
Added by: doublecat
'Unknown Citizen' has an irregular rythym and rhyme. I agree totally with Poetry Fan (above) and Lynaya. The poem's structure really made this poem and opened it up for me. See what lines rhyme with each other....do they all rhyme? Good luck.
Added by: doublecat
'Unknown Citizen' has an irregular rythym and rhyme. I agree totally with Poetry Fan (above) and Lynaya. The poem's structure really made this poem and opened it up for me. See what lines rhyme with each other....do they all rhyme? Good luck.
Added by: Sarah McCallister
I'm confused as to who the speaker is in the poem. Is it some kind of governmental bureacrat? And why would they erect a monument for this citizen? He's nothing but a conformist!
Added by: idiot savant
the poem is irony it is not about communism it is about america how OUR governement uses people. the communist society embraces everyone since everyone matters whereas our society uses people in order to get ahead. The poem shows how even a man who did so much for his community and country has such little meaning to our governemnt. has anyone here read this poem for an educational course. Because I have.
The poem
Added by: John
First, the background on Auden is that he was a socialist in Europe. When he moved to America, however, he dropped these views. This can been seen through the satire used to describe the "greater community," but the largest amount of criticism can be attributed to bureaucracy as others have stated. The citizen may be unknown but he is known to the speaker of the poem as JS/07/M/378. He is nothing more than a number that is analyzed by the multiple divisions of the government. It is from the data produced by these branches that a conclusion about the man is drawn and how satisfied he is with life. There's a lot of other elements in the poem and did anyone consider his homosexuality as a factor for the last two lines?
Added by: flutestewart
His sexuality doesn't matter, the gov. doesn't care about his sexual preferences. Asking if someone is free or happy certainly doesn't raise the question is he gay or bisexual.
Added by: jessgirl
In my opinion, the poem raises an idea that to be accepted you must conform and be normal and you achieve this by following the rules. In trying so hard to become accepted by such a demanding society, you become unknown, just a figure. The idea is that if you want to be known, either famously or infamously, you mustn't conform to the rules sanctioned by society. Hence you are not accepted. The poem is contradictory - it seems one is not happy in either outcome.

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