Unknown Citizen

Topics: W. H. Auden, Modernism, Liberalism Pages: 4 (1356 words) Published: July 2, 2009
Themes of W.H. Auden's "The Unknown Citizen" Conformity and Anonymity in the Modern World "Social Security Number? Birth date? Nine digit telephone number starting with area code? Mother's

Maiden Name?" In many ways, we are simply faceless numbers to modern society, not individuals with feelings and emotions and dreams. W.H. Auden, a well-known English poet and dramatist, discusses this important theme in his poem "An Unknown Soldier." Auden, being a modernist, is concerned with this modern idea of people losing their identities in the face of the changing, technological world. In the poem "An Unknown Soldier," Auden speaks of the dangers of modern society to the individual including anonymity, conformity, and government control. The anonymity of the unknown citizen is shown in Auden's repeated use of metaphor. Auden shows the reader everything the unknown citizen was and was not-"a saint" (line 4), "wasn't odd in his views" (line 9), "normal in every way" (line 15), "was insured" (line 16), "had everything necessary to the Modern man" (line 20), "held proper opinions for the time of year" (line 23), and added the right number of children to the population (line 25.). While it seems as though the unknown citizen is praised for these qualities, Auden is mocking how anonymous the man has become. This citizen is completely defined by his statistics, not by any of his qualities or feelings. He isn't even given a name but is referred to by a number. Conformity is the virtue in most in demand by society as Emerson pointed out many years before. Auden's unknown citizen is a model of conformity in a society where everyone must follow the rules if things are to run smoothly. He does all the right things. The government can produce reports to show that he did all the right things. He had the right opinions, owned the right products, and even had the correct number of kids. In this poem, people have become noting more than commodities that must fulfill their roles for...
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