The Unknown Citizen

Topics: Comedy, Post-War, Knowledge Pages: 4 (821 words) Published: October 8, 1999
The Poem "The Unknown Citizen" by W.H. Auden

is a satire. Its narrator is the state. In this, the state pays tribute and describes

a successful and positive product of its efficiency and effectiveness. In other

words, it builds the character later described to the reader as "the perfect

citizen." The narrator speaks as if he is delivering a speech or common tribute

using words and phrases that are familiar to the reader. Using such imagery

helps the reader paint a clear picture of the character. The subject or

character is illustrated as a hardworking, common, tax paying, proud – to –

be American citizen living in an obvious post Depression setting. The post

Depression setting is key, as the reader knows during that time bracket in

History, citizens went on the hunt for what was known as the "American

Dream." A driving force to recover and reinvent as well as the thirst to

prosper. The government (or state, as described earlier) by use of statistics

wanted to not only show, but also greatly embellish and make grand, its

effectiveness and success in its recovery and prosper. The narrator takes a

sincere yet ironically humorous approach in doing so. Humorous and ironic

because the reader knows that no such person exists as the "perfect citizen"

as described in this poem. It is found that the poem is set during the post

depression and post war period. Supported by the picture painted in the

minds of the audience by the speaker's content. In his content he mentions

words and phrases such as; (6) Except for the war ‘til the day he retired" (6)

"He worked in a factory" (10) "For the Union reports that he paid his dues"

(24) "When there was peace, he was for peace; when there was war, he

went." The audience knows that the work in factories; formation, existence,

and belonging of unions; talk of war and peace; are all associated with the

post Depression/war era. By that we can define our setting...
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