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Topics: W. H. Auden, The Unknown Citizen, The Unknown Pages: 5 (1159 words) Published: April 9, 2014
In a brief essay, identify at least two of the implications implicit in the society reflected in the poem. Support your statements by specific references to the poem.

The Unknown Citizen

Comment [ANn1]: OK, so I need to IDENTIFY
two implications implicit in the society. I need to
make sure I’m speaking only to the society reflected
IN the poem. I’ll make sure to quote the poem itself.

by W. H. Auden
(To JS/07 M 378
This Marble Monument
Is Erected by the State)
He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint,
And all the reports on his conduct agree
That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a saint,
For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
Except for the War till the day he retired
He worked in a factory and never got fired,
But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
Yet he wasn't a scab or odd in his views,
For his Union reports that he paid his dues,
(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)
And our Social Psychology workers found
That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day
And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way. Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured, And his Health-card shows he was once in hospital but left it cured. Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare

He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Instalment Plan And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace: when there was war, he went. He was married and added five children to the population,
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his generation.
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their
education.
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.

Reading Closely: Below is how I would approach this essay—of course, when you’re writing the essay in class, you’re better off with jotting down notes for your basic outline. Title—Unknown Citizen? Why is he ‘unknown’?

Paraphrase—no time in timed conditions; instead, a quick summary shows that this is a poem in the third-person where all these institutions and agencies report that this ‘unknown citizen’ led a mediocre and harmless life. 1) How ‘unknown’ is he when he’s so heavily observed? 2) it seems this is the kinda

Comment [ANn2]: Third person narration
Comment [ANn3]: Odd—bureaucracy?
Numbers?
Comment [ANn4]: Saint? What’s a modern
sense of this? Old-fashioned would have religious
connotations, martyr-like qualities.
Comment [ANn5]: His life was in service of the
community.
Comment [ANn6]: He was consistent.
Comment [ANn7]: Scab—requires background
knowledge: a person who takes up the job at a
cheaper price when unions go on strike. In this
instance, he is not only satisfying his employed at
Fudge Motors Inc. but also satisfying the Union by
paying his dues. He’s a people-pleaser.
Comment [ANn8]: Interesting, this society is
investigating the Union too—talk about scrutiny in
this society! All red tape.
Comment [ANn9]: Ok, wtf isn’t looking at this
guy? Getting ridiculous now. Probably looking at
irony because this is going over-the-top.
Comment [ANn10]: Objects are all that is
necessary to the modern man? Not just objects, but
objects of distraction. What about love? Happiness?
All that shit?
Comment [ANn11]: Not only is he perfect in his
mediocrity and contentment, but he fulfilled his
function as a procreator.
Comment [ANn12]: Never questioned the
teacher? Never behaved subversively?
Moreover, how far back does this guy’s file go?
Comment [ANn13]: Free and Happy (the
abstractions) are not of any consequence here: The
important thing...
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