The Unknown Citizen

Topics: Rhyme, Grammar, Poetry Pages: 1 (329 words) Published: May 2, 2006
"The Unknown Citizen" is an occasional poem. That is to say, it is a poem written to mark a specific occasion or event. The occasion is indicated in the lines contained in parenthesis that precede the body of the poem. As these lines indicate, the poem is a written monument that functions like a cenotaph: it commemorates a fallen man whose identity is unknown. However, unlike the soldier who falls in a battle of war, the battle this individual appears to be unwittingly a part of is a social battle as he is labelled an unknown citizen and not soldier.

Despite being unknown by name, the citizen is known by his social identification, the number, "JS/07/M/378." This number is much like a social security number. It leads investigators to various data banks which provide details regarding the citizen's life, and this is the irony upon which the poem turns. Although many facts about the citizen are known, he remains unknown because details highlighting his individuality are ignored. He is simply representative of all the citizenry who conform to set standards and practices, standards which are dictated by the mass organizations and institutions that shape society. The lines preceding the body of the text underscore this irony and together with the poem, satirically suggest that the "monument" is not a celebration of such an existence, but rather a condemnation of the system and the complacent individuals who support it.

"The Unknown Citizen" follows a somewhat erratic rhyme scheme: ababaccdeeffdgghhijjikmknnnoo. The poem concludes with a closed couplet, two successive lines that contain a grammatically complete statement. The final word of each of these lines rhymes with one another. The statement is considered "closed" in that it does not depend on what precedes it to complete its grammatical structure or thought. In other words, its meaning is contained within the two lines, and it is within these two lines that the climax of the poem is reached.
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