The Unknown Citizen (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 Questions 1. The poem can be summed up in two separate lists, one containing the information we get about the citizen, the other the sources of information What are the sources of information? The sources are all the branches in which Government has power, for example the police or the Health department What images do these sources convey? It gives the idea of a citizen who was controlled by the authority and who hadn’t a proper importance, but he was just a little piece of a big puzzle 2. The sort of information we get about the citizen can be grouped under various headings : job, family life, mates, employers, union, mass media, education system, health system, military service. Find the exact information. - he served the Greater Community - He worked in a factory and never got fired - he was popular with his mates - He was married and added five children to the population - his Health-card shows he was once in hospital but left it cured - teachers report that he never interfered with their education 3. What type of life did this man lead? He had a totally ordinary, monotonous and anonymous life. The point of describing it as so monotonous is to underline his alienation and sense of uselessness. 4. Does the man have a name of his own ? why ? why not? No, he is just a number, probably because nobody cared about his name because he was just as all the other people. He’s a very little part in a big society. 5. What do the reference numbers under the title ironically suggest? What analogy do you find ? They suggest that for the society he lived in he was just a merch, an object. It reminded me of concentration camps, where prisoners were deprived of their identity and alienated from the reality. 6. What is paradoxical in this public recognition? The paradox is that this man is depicted as a good example to follow but in reality nobody cared about how he felt and who he really was, whether he was happy or free. He contributed to the life of his society (he went to war, he “gave” five children to the society, worked really well, he was a member of the Union and he paid all his duties to the union…). He was in fact considered a Saint mainly because he served the Government perfectly. 7. Consider now the last two lines. Is the question of man’s happiness and freedom relevant or irrelevant? The question is relevant for the poet but not for the people and society. The poet suggests that the modern man is slave to routine and he is incapable of understanding such concepts (freedom and happiness). Therefore, such a question in this context would be ‘absurd’. 8. Through this poem Auden attacks a particular aspect of modern society? Which one? Auden, with this poem, attacks the dictatorships present at his time, he attacks moral rules of a fake society in which appearances were given too much importance, and also the sense of alienation given by the consumerist and capitalistic system. He criticised the society’s disregard towards the individual citizens. 9. How would you define the poem? It is at the same time a satire and a denounce of his time, an open critique. 10. Some words are in capital letters, Why? Because they represent the different fields in which Government had control on the citizens, and I think that he put them in capital letters because at that time people saw them as big bosses, such as Orwell’s Big Brother 11.Who do the pronoun he and we refer to ? He is the unknown citizen, and we is the indifferent society 1. 2. 3. 4. Personal Response: What is Auden’s opinion of modern society? He sees a society in which individuality and exploitation of the other are seen as normal. He fears that man could become just a number in the hands of the few powerful people. Do you think that the community is more important than the individual? It depends. I believe that sometimes we need an individual that emerges in the community and lead it to the progress, but, the situation we are living right now is showing, it is important that the individual recognises they are part of a community and cannot do whatever they want. Also, everyone contributes to the improvement (but also worsening) of society. Plus, I believe that society should have the ability to help an individual if they get lost during their life. Do you think that State control is necessary? In the society we live in it is necessary for sure. That doesn’t mean that State is allowed to invade individual’s privacy, but we need to have a State to knows who we are and gives us rules to be followed. Don’t you agree that conformity is a common characteristic of many people? Sometimes it’s easier to conform to a big group because it gives sense of comfort and protection, safety. It can be seen as scary, being different and having to deal with problems alone, without following someone else.