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Commentary - The unknown citizen by W.H.Auden

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Introduction

Commentary The unknown citizen The "Unknown Citizen" is a poem written by W.H.Auden and it is set in the Eighteenth Century. In this poem, people do not have the rights for freedom, and formality is to be expected of all members of society. It was written to illustrate the kind of influence the government had on the people, and what is expected of them. The title "the unknown citizen" is used to emphasize the fact that the person who is referred to by the poet is insignificant. The imperative point in this poem is his contribution to the state. Since he is seen as the government's ideal citizen, the government tries to use him as a role model in hope that a majority of the state would follow his behavior. This is evident from the line "To FS/06/M/378 this marble monument is erected to the state". ...read more.

Middle

The two poetic devices that are used by the poet to emphasize the tone of the poem are rhyme and rhythm. A special rhythm called the anapestic rhythm is used by the poet. The beat of the rhythm makes the poem dull. On the other hand, the last two lines have a different rhythm "Was he happy? Was he free? The question is absurd: Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard." It is telling the reader that people in that era conformed to the norm and followed what the government felt was right. In addition, they could not think for themselves as this wasn't allowed in society. Hence, the poet raises up this important concern, are the people happy? It is a technique that allows the readers to finally see the people's sympathetic situation and to have a climax in the Eulogy. ...read more.

Conclusion

From the phrase "when there was peace, he was for peace; when there is war, he went". This shows that people in that era do not have a mind of their own. They follow the rules and regulations that were set for them without thinking for themselves. As the "unknown citizen" is the government's ideal citizen, we can conclude that people at that period were similar to this character. They are restricted by the rulers and pressured by society to do things that they may not want to do; an example of this is going to war. Unlike today, people in the Eighteenth Century had to conform to all the rules set by the government. They did not have the luxury we have of being able to express our own opinions freely. The poet had successfully made the readers understand the structure of society in the past by extensive use of satirical tone, rhyme and rhythm. ...read more.

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