The Unknown Citizen begins with the epigraph that seems like some tombstone, on which there is no name. There were not any other personal details were given. Instead, there is a number that is usually given to soldiers during the war who sacrifice lives for their nation. Maybe, this is why, the person was called “An Unknown Citizen”.
Upon start reading the poem, it is giving some general details about the life of a man. The statistics department has looked into the background of this man. They found that he used to be acting in the right manner. There was no police complaint made against him. Every official report that they have checked agrees with his law abiding conduct. The citizen was acting in a proper civilised way that could help the entire community. He can be called a saint twho was living in the modern times.
The poet further describes about him that he has worked in the factory throughout his life at Fudge Motors. He never applied for work leave except when there was a war and he had to fight. When we talk about the mental condition of the citizen, the Union also has his reports. He had a sound mind and never went against the general norms. The dues were also paid on time and he possessed a good personal relations with his peers. He used to have drinks with those peers. As far as he was into reading the newspaper, he used to buy it daily and keep himself aware of the surroundings. He must have responded to some advertisements too, which shows that he had been interested in them too.
Health Policies obtained by The Unknown Citizen
The later lines tell that there were health policies in his name too. It proves he had health insurance and he also went to the hospital once. Although, he left after curing from there means that he was a healthy person. The citizen was also able to buy the latest stuff, for that, he used to have installments plans. Moreover, he owned all the latest appliances like phone, refrigerator and car.
When it was about the details of Public Survey, he has given his opinion, there too. Whether it was a peaceful time or the time of war. According to the further details, the unknown citizen was a married man with five children. This was, according to the Ministry was the right number to add to the population. Also, the children were studying in school where he never thought about interfering. Still, if we ask if the man was happy and free, then it will be a pathetic question. If there was anything wrong with this man or his behaviour, then this Bureau would have alerted about it.
On the close analysis of The Unknown Citizen that is the poem by W.H. Auden, there is a revelation that the poem is both the mockery and alarming. It explains the regular life of a citizen. It also explains the role of bureaucracy that how they keep a check on him. The tone of the poem seems kind of cold and a distant one. The person is described with the mention of numbers and alphabets only. The state appears to be in complete control of the lives of the citizens. As the citizens are spending their lives as a conformist. The character of that person has a clean background. That is how, he will be able to impact the society at large. Due to this kind of clean acts and lifestyle, the person was called saint by the bureaucracy. He was not saint because he was a regular church goer. He was a role model for many of the fellow citizens.
The authorities are furthermore digging into the details of The Unknown Citizen. They found that he used to work in Fudge Motors. There, he never took any off or was fired. Such gesture from any employee shows that he was not involved in any workplace politics or union. Means, he was never involved in halting the company operations or demand extra salary. He was only absent from his work when he went to fight in the war. It also depicts that how patriot the man was as he gave up his job for the sake of his country. The citizen was also a regular worker at the company and never came up with any odd issues. The union of this company is also not a fuss creator rather running operations smoothly.
Psychological life of the citizen
The department of Psychology is also looking for the details about the psychological health of the citizen. Back at that time, the Social Psychology was a new term that used to keep check on the mental health of its population. They found that he was a loved person amongst his friends and they used to gather for a drink. ‘Popular with his mates’ shows that he did not have a drinking problem, rather they used to drink for fun.
Now the newspaper media agency has come forward as well and although, they do not know the unknown citizen, but they are happy with his act of buying a newspaper. His reaction towards advertisement is also like any normal consumer who drags away by the corporate world tactics.
Now the bureaucracy has dug into more details about this person who we have named The Unknown Citizen. They have now come up with the health policies in the name of this citizen. With his health insurance record, it gets clear that he was not some middle-aged person. He kept the insurance done, which shows that he believes in staying up to date without taking any risk. The government has reached into his health card as well which shows that he was admitted in the hospital once, but got out when he was cured. It proves that he is a healthy man who is not becoming a burden on the health system.
The Unknown Citizen as a consumer
The Researcher department also had their thorough check on him that shows that he used to have a quality product. The citizen also had a good taste in buying items and providing feedback about them. This is what the Producer Research company does. Auden has also showed a possibility that he has a luxury taste that is why he took advantage of the instalment plans offered by the companies to the consumers who have good credit history. Not only that, it shows the citizen as a reliable consumer, but also that he could afford such lifestyle.
Auden has called The Unknown Citizen a, Modern Man as well. It is mainly because we can see that he owns gramophone that was kind of MP3 player back then. He had a car at that time, a refrigerator and a radio. He has almost everything that any updated person would have. It was his accomplishment that he has all the gadgets.
A conformist person
The Unknown Citizen has been a conformist in a way as well that he has always supported that was the current norm. He never had any comments or opinions that could be out of the context. We went with the national wind and that is what pleases the people at the Public office. He has supported peace over all his life and lived peacefully. Same as that when the war happened, he went to fight on the front line.
The Family Life of Citizen
The bureaucrat speaker has also revealed that he was married and had five children. According to the ministry of population of that time, this was the very correct number of children to have during that time period. Eugenics is the person who looks into the genetic development of any family. Although, that system was not much appreciated by the people as they thought that one should not do such engineering with their genes.
In the next line, the poet has called it ‘our teachers’, which shows that they are the teachers appointed by the state. His children have certainly studied in a state-run school and not in some private lavish one. The citizen never interfered over the syllabus or teaching method, which shows that he was giving his complete trust over school.
The last lines of The Unknown Citizen are highly confusing and vague that, what does it mean by if the citizen was really happy or not? He has everything, he was a law abiding citizen. He was paying the taxes, utilising the national resources with due care, then why he will not be happy? This is a pathetic question to even ask. If there was anything wrong, then he must have complained to the system and the bureaucracy have heard about it as they got to know about all the earlier ones.
The last stanzas of the poem provide with the impression as well that government has filled with them with all the necessary requirements. There remains no reason to argue, speak up, think out of the box or protest for anything in life.
What to assume of The Unknown Citizen?
The poem by Auden could be the reminder that how bureaucracy has made us silent by filling us with all the basic necessities of life.
The narration of The Unknown Citizen is in the voice of some bureaucrats who has said it out with some dry and dull effect. Even though, he was such obedient citizen, but he is nothing more than an allotted number for the state who could not even honoured with his name.
The whole poem consist of 26 lines of the single stanza. The rhyme scheme of the overall poem has a mixed effect that is at somewhere it is inc- drink, declare- Frigidaire.
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