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The Unknown Citizen- copia Giuli+Claire

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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
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
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
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.