The Unknown Citizen Essay
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The Unknown Citizen
In "The Unknown Citizen," Auden is implying that people are statistics and easily conformed to the normality of society. Throughout the poem, Auden portrays the character as being an all around normal citizen and "one against whom there was no official complaint." In lines 4 and 5, the speaker describes the character as a "saint" and "for in everything he did he served the Greater Community." He served in war, never got fired from his job, popular with his mates, and "normal in every way." Auden develops the theme by describing the character's life through the research of different bureaus, researchers, and psychology workers. Each one of these descriptions point to the same idea that the character is a…show more content…
Also, by focusing on the descriptions of the character's life, the readers become more aware of their own lives and how their lives compare to his. This makes the poem intriguing and brings a more personal affect towards the reader.
One literary device the author uses is symbolism. This poem was written in 1940. During this time period the common occupation was a factory worker. In line 8, "Fudge Motors Inc" is the factory that the character works for. Also, in line 26, the character had "a phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire." These were all the things "necessary to the modern man." Auden uses these cultural symbols to accentuate the main idea of the poem. He wants the reader to realize the commonality of the character's lifestyle.
Another device that Auden uses is alliteration. In line 29, the speaker said "that he held the proper opinion for the time of year; when there was peace, he was for peace; when there was war, he went." The alliteration, "when there was war he went" enhances the meaning of the poem because it emphasizes to the reader the type of citizen the character was and the conformity of the character.
Auden also uses visual imagery to contribute to the meaning of the poem. Almost every single line is effective in describing the character's life, his personality, and how he lived. For instance, in line 13, the "Social Psychology worker found that he was popular with his mates and liked a drink."
The whole idea of the Unknown Citizen is a parody of the serious military concept of the Unknown Soldier, which was created in order to recognize the sacrifice of soldiers who died anonymously. The poem is dripping with irony, as the speaker lists off accomplishments that aren’t accomplishments at all. At many points, the poem directly parodies existing American companies or organizations.
- Line 2: It’s ironic that a poem of praise would begin on such a dull and tepid point as the lack of "official complaints."
- Line 8: Fudge Motors, Inc. sounds to us like a parody of Ford Motors, Inc, the biggest auto company in the world at the time. But more delicious.
- Line 18: "Producers Research and High-Grade Living" are parodies of real consumer organizations like Consumer Reports and Good Housekeeping.
- Line 19: To say that he was "fully sensible to the advantages of the Instalment Plan" is a hilarious understatement. He must have been aware at a higher level than his "senses."
- Line 20: The phrase "everything necessary to the Modern Man" is a cliché used by advertisers to sell stuff. Today it sounds so old-fashioned that we can easily recognize it as such.