• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

"The Unknown Citizen": Auden's Satire of the State"

Extracts from this document...


"The Unknown Citizen": Auden�s Satire of the State" "The Unknown Citizen", written by W.H. Auden during 1940, is a poem where the speaker, a representative of the state or government, directs a speech to the audience about a monument being erected for a citizen. Written in free verse, although using many couplets, this poem is a poem that describes the life of a certain person through his records and documents. This citizen is portrayed as a normal and average human being who is being honoured for being normal. Auden, however, uses the fact that the state is honouring someone for being normal to criticise his society. By emphasizing certain grammatical conventions and the structure the author explains the true meaning of this poem, and the unidentified citizen. "The Unknown Citizen" is a poem that directs an epitaph to a common man in the country. In honour of the monument for the citizen, a speech is given as a tribute to his doings. This man is depicted as a man who obeyed the law and never did anything incorrect, and he was known for taking part in many government handled activities. He served his duty in War, worked in Fudge Motors Inc., had a Health-card, and never caused any sort of rebellion towards the state. This citizen had an overall average life, where he was married and had five children. ...read more.


He did not have any rebellious thoughts; therefore, he followed the state when they went to war and when they were at peace. The state is giving a monument to somebody who has never made a difference. Auden writes, "That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a saint," (4) and uses this verse to demonstrate that the government cherishes obedience and not triumph. The word "saint" in the old fashioned-sense means a holy person; however, in the modern sense saint signifies obedience to the state. Thus meaning that this state is honouring a person who is docile. Why would a state do this? The state that is erecting the monument is a state that controls every aspect of their citizen's lives with numbers and statistics. This state is known as a totalitarian state, a state that has complete control over its� citizens. The author demonstrates the type of government the state has by using allusions and using the grammar and the structure to emphasize his point. The name of the "unknown citizen" is "JS/07/M/378", also known as a code or a number. This state recognizes its citizens by a number, and the state further recognizes its citizens with statistics. The government holds records of everything that this citizen has done, but only things that can be documented by paper, such as his position in his work, in war, in his labour Union and so on. ...read more.


By writing the whole poem as an epitaph and making it seem like it is a memorial for someone who deserves it, makes the subject ironic. The reader first thinks that this poem is simply a memorial for a special citizen who did everything right, and in this way Auden is ironic and satirical towards his society. Auden illustrates his irony throughout the whole poem, but one verse and illustrates this use very well is in lines (10-11); "For his Union reports that he paid his dues/ (Our report on his Union shows it was sound)" This line is very ironic, because labour Unions are not traditionally sound according to the government, and since the Union is "sound" it is not really a Union. The sense of this poem depends greatly upon the tone, because literally the poem has a completely different connotation than it does if u considers the tone. The poet has a critical attitude towards this subject and it is clearly demonstrates once the reader analysis the poem. W. H. Auden is a poet who portrays his emotions and feelings through his poetry, and in this certain poem, "The Unknown Citizen", Auden criticises the state. He uses allusions and capitalization to make the reader understand the actual meaning of the poem and by adding the final couplet in the poem, Auden reaches tries to get the reader to think. Auden leaves the reader hanging and makes them think; is our society and government really totalitarian? Or is this how our government will be? ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 Adnani ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Politics section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Politics essays

  1. The Creation of the Welfare State

    In Source H it clearly states that the amount of money spent on housing has increased, from 42.3 million pounds in 1935 to 83.5 in 1955. However, the houses built were poorly built according to 'Towards Prosperity' by BBC Publications in 1970 which stated that " families lived in crowded

  2. The Negative Impact Of World War 1 On Italy: Weaknesses Of The Liberal State, ...

    Liberal coalition governments only lasted a few months as their support base had, by now, crumbled. Between October 1917 and October 1922 five Prime Ministers led five different government coalitions (Three of them between June 1920 and October 1922). Such was the chaos and Liberal unpopularity that, by September 1922, the Government seemed to have lost the will to govern.

  1. Commentary - The unknown citizen by W.H.Auden

    The poet describes him as a "saint", "modern man", "he was popular with his mates" and " he was fully sensible". However, the writer isn't proud of this model citizen. It is because he conforms to society and follows the rigid rules that are passed by the state.

  2. A Critical Evaluation of UK's ID Card schemeA Government's proposal to monitor its Citizens

    To illustrate the party's defiance on the issue, The Home Secretary Charles Clarke was recently quoted as saying "We already carry numerous forms of identity. Much better to have one single proof of identity" [4] The aspiration to adopt such a scheme was almost certainly triggered by the 9/11 tragedy

  1. Conflict Analysis: Angola

    Following the failed elections in 1992, this is what the UN has been attempting to bring about. However after the fourth outbreak of war in 1998, it seems unlikely that the two parties will share power. MPLA will not allow UNITA into full power sharing until it demilitarises and incorporates its troops into the Angolan army or police force.

  2. Does Hobbes's Sovereign or Locke's Civil Government provide better protection for the citizen?

    The problem of liberty and property with regards to who has right deal with important issues such as raising taxation. Also problems over religion also occur in the society in which Hobbes lives in, and when citizens start to have differences in answers to these problems with there being no

  1. A True Canadian Citizen

    They should be familiar with the country's government. The citizen should know about how parties are formed and elected, and the different responsibilities of the federal and provincial governments. Knowing Canada's Charter of Rights, having knowledge of Canada's history and knowing about the Canadian government are three basic requirements for

  2. What is the position of a citizen in a modern liberal democracy?

    it would surely be excluded from elections. The rights of individuals of the state must be protected. In some systems, this is ensured by constitutional law that cannot easily be changed by parliament. An obvious example of a state that's citizens rights are not protected in a constitution is the U.K.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work