Poem Analysis: The Unknown Citizen

997 words 4 pages
The Average Man

W. H. Auden satirizes the United States as an entity, which restrains individual advancement. Through depersonalization, the government rewards those who actually never do anything. However, the "Unknown Citizen" has a monument built as a symbol of his perfection. Thus, Auden's "The Unknown Citizen" shows how the government makes each individual merely a number unless they do not conform to society's norms.
The monument of the "unknown citizen" is erected not to honor the memory of a man, but to show how he is the perfect example of a good citizen (Auden). In this poem, the citizen is just an average person who never stands out among the rest of the population. For example, "Yet he wasn't a scab or odd in his
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This shows how he views changed to fit the opinion of the majority. In fact, the government controls almost every aspect of his life and he does nothing about it. He allows the government to walk all over him and determine the things he should do. In the poem, this man is given the number "JS/07 M 378," rather than a name (Auden). Most people in this situation would not be happy with just being a number; they would take charge and force the government to recognize them as a person. Here, his number reminds a modern reader of the Holocaust and the thousands of Jews with numbers tattooed to their arms waiting to die.
A hero is also someone that others look to for courage, but others do not admire this citizen because he follows the daily routine that he is given. A hero creates a legend for himself. If the citizen had left a legacy, the monument erected for him would have his name, rather than just a number. A hero also lets others know their feelings, but this citizen does not express his feelings. Auden states, "Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard" (29). Auden uses this line to suggest that the citizen is happy because the government has not heard anything different; however, the citizen's true feelings remain unstated and unknown. In contrast, a hero would make it known that he did not want to live the life of conformity, but this man does not. Pierre Proudhon once said:
To be governed is to be watched over, inspected,


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