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The Unknown Citizen

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“The Unknown Citizen”

W. H. Auden’s poem entitled “The Unknown Citizen” is a portrayal of a conflict between individualism and government control. “The Unknown Citizen” is a government’s view of the perfect modern man in an unrealistic society. In “The Unknown Citizen” the government has manipulated human intelligence to the point that they have control over everyone’s lives and minds. The motive behind the portrayal of an equal society is that it will eliminate hatred, envy and war. While this proves true, the numerous side effects such as loss of identity, lack of originality, and loss of personal feelings develop.
The satiric society depicted in “The Unknown Citizen” is the authors attempt to ridicule a political system that tends to depersonalize its citizens and constantly strives to create equality. The attempt to create an equal society to the extreme makes many governments more like a dictatorship or communist system rather than a democracy. The society portrayed in the poem takes the notion of perfection and equality to the extreme. In the poem Auden uses sarcasm to express an obsessive and mindless state that only knows its citizens by numbers and letters, and evaluates their worth with statistics. The ideal citizen is supposed to be “One against whom there was no official complaint [and] in everything he did he served the community”(5). The idea that a perfect modern man is not meant to have any complaints and to serve the community, suggests that the state requires it’s citizens to work for the benefit of the state, not the individual. The fact that nothing should be questioned shows the obedience to the state that is needed to maintain the utopian society that the poem discusses.
During the time period that “The Unknown Citizen” was written, in the late 1930’s, Americans were issued Social Security cards (similar to Canadian Social Insurance Numbers), each with a personalized ...

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