Unknown Citizen

Topics: W. H. Auden, The Unknown Citizen, Government Pages: 4 (1257 words) Published: April 16, 2012
Paper #3
"Social Security Number? Birthdate? Nine digit telephone number starting with area code?" In many ways, we are simply numbers to modern society, not individuals with feelings and emotions and dreams. As the world around us evolves so does technology. With the fast paced advancements occurring in technology it seems that the humanity of the world is decreasing. This makes it harder for people to develop their own personal identity. In today’s society people are being seen more as “faceless” citizens rather than individuals. This is because they are given numbers and labeled based upon how society sees them. In “The Unknown Citizen”, W.H. Auden shows us how the government sees society as statistics rather than a group of individuals.

The unknown citizen of Auden’s poem is unknown because his name has become unimportant. The subtitle “To JS/07/M/378 This Marble Monument is Erected by the State (Auden 864)” is a fictional concept that the government enforced by an alpha-numeric tag. This tag is used to distinguish who each person is. Throughout the poem the individual is being referred to as “JS/07/M/378”. The random letters and numbers followed by forward slashes are all representations of the government. Meaning each section of letters and numbers are representing something. “JS” could possibly be the first letters of his first and last name and “M” could represent his gender being male. However, the fact that his name is never mentioned and a marble statue was built in his honor in very ironic. Instead of writing his full name the government chose to use the name they had given to him. This automatically is seen as a form of dehumanizing. The statue can also be seen as a form of symbolism representing the chilling manner in which the government chose to honor this man. Auden gives the audience the perceptive that the government is honoring people who they never knew really existed while they were alive.

Auden uses irony to describe how the unknown...
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