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The Unknown Citizen

W.H. Auden

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Added by: "moi"
thanxs to all the people who analysed this poem you guys really help me understand this peom...thanxs
Added by: jessica
use these questions to guide your thoughts:

1. Where is this poem to be found?
2. Whom does it honour?
3. Who is the speaker?
4. Auden is the writer, but he imagines “a person” who would have composed these words. Who would this person be?
5. What do the following words mean in their context: saint (4), scab (9), Installment Plan (19), Eugenist (26)?
6. To what is the title an allusion? Indicate how the allusion adds irony to the poem.
7. This poem does not make use of figurative language to the same degree that we are accustomed to in poetry; instead, it relies on statement. Is this appropriate for the poem or not? Explain.
8. What are we to imagine happens between line 27 and line 28?
9. What is ironic about the end of the poem?
10. What is the writer satirizing about the society of his time? In your opinion, are such criticisms relevant to contemporary society?
Added by: kenzie
the citizen in this poem is a total no one he does nothing, says nothing and most likely thinks nothing the government would not aprove of.
A different view..
Added by: Another Unknown Citizen
I think that this is a much more intimate and personal poem than most commentators suggest. I believe that Auden's message is that we think we know a man because of what we see on the outside but the last lines "was he free....surely would have known." are sarcastically saying that we cannot know a man because we do not see his heart, soul or mind.
Fudge motors inc
Added by: jm
Auden does not speak of the industrial fictional company fudge inc. in direct relation to Ford. fudge was a word that they used in auden's time for a clean substitution for f*ck. so when auden says that the unknown citizen satisfied his employers at Fudge motors inc he is implying that the company and the people that he worked for were all jerks and did not care about him just like the narrarator (the state)
Added by: Poet Analyst
When I first read most of these comments, I was disappointed, but then again, I have no room to criticize. Here's what I found in the poem. Auden uses capitalization to emphasize the bureaucratic status of the various parties that he speaks about. Public Opinion is a bureaucratic term. War is a sociological and bureacratic term. He emphasizes the bureaucratic meaning by capitalizing them. The irony used in the poem is not only in the title, where he is stating that this person is a parallel to the unknown soldier, he is saying that this person is not remembered for anything extraordinary. The unknown citizen is the overall mean of the expectations of a modern society's bureaucracy. He is saying that "Modern Society" is dehumanizing. Note that all the sentences with the exception of the last two lines are in the passive voice. This is the way a bureaucrat speaks, "Our researchers into Public Opinion are content/That he held the popular opinions for the time of year.", not 'he agreed with the public'. There is much much more in this poem; yes Auden was a homosexual, but that hardly dictates the content of the poem. Rather, both his sexual orientation and this poem show that he was a free thinker.
Added by: jassy
the point isn't if he was happy. the point is,did it matter if he wasn't in the society described?
Call me thick...
Added by: Catherine
Well, call me thick but i just figured that this poem was all about an outsider looking in on normality. It is actually quite ironic because Auden was a great eccentric, very far from this 'normality'
Added by: sama
i think this poem refers a person to who are no more exists ,no mistakes in life is so difficult to be i mean who can be perfect !
Added by: aimee
honestly, this unknown citizen isn't necessarily a perfect guy. He did a great job of conforming to exactly what society expected of him and was perfectly average in every way. He is made into a "saint" by the government because he agreed with them and did what they thought was appropriate and never deviated from the societal norms. But being society's clone is rather boring.

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