Auden's unknown citizen is a model of conformity in a society where everyone must obey the rules in order for things to operate properly. He always does the right thing. The government can offer reports proving that he did everything correctly. Yet still he would be punished because he was not a member of the governing class.
This shows that even though someone may appear to be good, they can be bad too. It also shows that people will believe anything against an innocent person. Auden is telling us that we need to be careful who we trust.
In today's world, this poem would be about racism. This unnamed citizen would be a white man doing the right thing. However, since it is written by an Englishman in the early 20th century, there is a chance that he could be referring to himself.
People in those days lived according to their status. If he were rich, he would probably go to a fine school. But if he were poor, maybe he would only attend public school. Either way, he would learn to play by the rules and become another voice of authority.
This poem reminds us that even though people seem like they know what's best, they can be wrong about many things. We have to use our own brains and think for ourselves.
W. H. Auden wrote The Unknown Citizen in 1939, shortly after moving from England to the United States. The poem was initially published in The New Yorker on January 6, 1940, and then in book form in Auden's anthology Another Time (Random House, 1940).
He lived in America for about five years, from 1939 to 1944. During that time, he developed a strong opposition to American involvement in World War II. In addition, he became one of the first members of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.
His work continues to influence many poets and artists throughout the world. Although he spent most of his life in America, his influence can be seen across the globe.
In conclusion, W. H. Auden is considered one of the leading poets of the modern era. His poems are often set to music, and his lyrics have been used by many singers including Louis Armstrong, John Lennon, and Paul Simon.
The poem's last words indirectly disregard the concerns of whether he was "free" or "happy," because the state's "statistical technique" strategy for judging his life cannot fathom such considerations. According to Shmoop, Auden's poem's deceptive "state" promotes "The Unknown Citizen" as the perfect citizen.
However, since the state only considers statistical data, it can never know if this man was truly free or happy. Thus, the final line of the poem implies that we should not expect to see such a person anymore.
Here is the full text of the poem:
The Unknown Citizen by W. H. Auden
In times of war and fear it is useful to remember those who struggle against oppression, greed, and cruelty with an idealism which could easily be dismissed as false but which is actually based on a profound belief in human goodness. Such people exist, and some even reach high positions within the government. The fact that they are rarely recognized or rewarded by their societies makes their actions all the more remarkable.
The poem describes one such person using statistics collected by his country. Since material wealth does not necessarily lead to happiness, this man chose to focus on freedom, which he defined as "the unknown citizen's right."
He believed that freedom could never be given, only taken away, so he spent most of his time trying to protect others from authoritarian rule.
The unknown citizen represents all ordinary individuals in a society and how the government wishes them to live. The Unknown Citizen also demonstrates how the government considers ordinary citizens as numbers rather than names. This shows that the government does not care about its people but only cares about making money.
In conclusion, The Unknown Citizen is a political satire that uses irony to criticize the government. It makes fun of politicians by showing that they are all the same and that their words should not be trusted.
In the instance of the poem's unknown citizen, someone died undiscovered as a result of the conformity placed on him by the government and society. He appears to have adopted uniformity, which is unworthy of our regard. This individual is unknown because he is a total conformist to society standards. He has accepted these norms as his own and thus has disappeared into the mass of ordinary people.
Auden here alludes to another famous poem by John Donne called "The Sun Rising". In this poem, the speaker imagines a dead body on a beach at sunrise. The body has no name because it did not make any difference to its life what name it had. It is simply a body that was born, lived its life, and died. Donne uses this example to show how none of us will ever be remembered after we die, since we can't take credit for our good deeds or blame for our sins. Instead, our lives are just a series of events that happen to us.
Donne also uses this idea in his sermons. In one sermon, he tells his congregation that everyone who dies without making confession of their faith before a priest is condemned to hell. In other words, your fate after you die is completely up to you: if you behaved well and prayed often, you would go to heaven. If not, you would go to hell.
In line 4, the unidentified individual is referred to as a "saint" in the "contemporary meaning." For example, the unknown citizen always behaves in the acceptable or anticipated manner. When there was conflict, he was for war; when there was calm, he was for peace, as indicated later in the poem. Therefore, he was considered to be a peaceful saint who wanted only good things for everyone.
There are three words used to describe him: "noble," "bright," and "glorious." A noble person is someone who has great moral character; he is bright because of his intelligence; and he is glorious because of his reputation. All these properties made up one perfect human being.
These attributes were not given out freely. Rather, they were reserved for a chosen few by God. Thus, the word "saint" has been used to describe people such as Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington. These individuals all had great moral character, so they were called saints in the contemporary meaning.
Also, they were all very intelligent people who did good things for others. So, they were called saints because they showed God's love by helping other people.
Finally, they were all glorious because of their reputation. So, they were called saints in the contemporary meaning.
Now, back to our poem.