Poem Analysis: The Unknown Citizen

Topics: The Unknown Citizen, W. H. Auden, Government Pages: 3 (988 words) Published: April 26, 2006
The Average Man

W. H. Auden satirizes the United States as an entity, which restrains individual advancement. Through depersonalization, the government rewards those who actually never do anything. However, the "Unknown Citizen" has a monument built as a symbol of his perfection. Thus, Auden's "The Unknown Citizen" shows how the government makes each individual merely a number unless they do not conform to society's norms. The monument of the "unknown citizen" is erected not to honor the memory of a man, but to show how he is the perfect example of a good citizen (Auden). In this poem, the citizen is just an average person who never stands out among the rest of the population. For example, "Yet he wasn't a scab or odd in his views," (Auden 9) illustrates how he holds the same opinions as the majority. Scabs were workers who would not go on strike or work for lower wages, which caused them to be despised by their fellow workers. This negative view of the scabs was the popular during the age of America industrialism. Auden uses a sarcastic tone to state that all citizens should follow the government's accepted norms. Conformity is taught to everyone in the school system. There, the youth learn society's expectations for their behavior. "And our teachers report that he never interfered with their education," (Auden 27) illustrates how this man allowed the government to choose what his children should learn. In essence, his children are brainwashed with his consent. He allowed the government to stifle all of their creativity in their quest for uniformity. Throughout the poem, the government gathers many statistics about the citizen, but he still remains nameless. Through all these mediums, the government discovers that the citizen was a follower and went along with the crowd. The poem also suggests that the government controls everything with the use of the possessive word our in front of some phrases such as "our report" (Auden 11).

The poem...
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