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To Conform or not to Conform; do we really have a Choice!

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Christine Stead Adam Beardsworth English 1080 October 28, 2004 To Conform or not to Conform; do we really have a Choice! W. H. Auden's "The unknown Citizen" and Robert Lowell's "Skunk Hour" are an expressions of the way they perceive the world. Both poets are portraying there thoughts on the political and social structures of society and seem to feel a great sense of loss, even anger at the way things are. In Auden's "Unknown Citizen" there is a certain amount of irony and satire throughout. In the title; not only does the reader not know the unknown citizen's name, this man seems to be unknown even to the people that are looking at him closely. As for "The Skunk Hour," the theme seems to be the corruption of values that is now so widely accepted. In Auden's eulogy style poem, "The Unknown Citizen," he uses satire through irony to convey his opinion about the absurdity of how in today's society people are recognized by numbers and statistics, faceless in a crowd of millions. ...read more.


Much like Auden's "Unknown Citizen," the tone and rhyme scheme in Robert Lowell's "Skunk Hour" has the quality of wearisome constancy (one might even say it's depressing). This monotony is representational of the routine that both the character's lives seem to exhibit. The main questions that are presented in this poem are: What has happened to the days of "Queen Victoria's century [?]" What is happening to the world around us? And, how can we survive in such an era? The speaker in the "Skunk Hour" finds today's society loathsome and craves the days of the Monarch. At the beginning of this poem there is a feeling of loneliness and self isolation, in an attempt to quench the thirst "for/hierarchic privacy of Queen Victoria's century." The once great monarch is crumbling and it would seem that this elderly woman, "hermit heiress," is resisting the changes in society and attempting to hold on to the past by buying up all the surrounding land. But like the land around her is falling, so are the days of old. ...read more.


Auden and Lowell wrote these poems in an attempt to ask a seemingly absurd question: does anyone care? That question still remains unanswered and widely disputed. Auden would say that the state/government does not care about the individual, just what the individual does for the whole. Individuality is inconsequential, as he puts it, "[t]he question is absurd." As for Lowell, the answer would seem to be that the question is irrelevant and that life is anything but ideal, but we must continue on and conform to survive. Both poet's reveal that people in every culture are molded by statistics, like that presented in the "Unknown Citizen," of what is considered to be average and how we are forced to conform. And most of the time these social norms are not questioned, but by writing these poem's, both poet's effectively not only question the world around them, but force the reader to do the same. We must keep in mind that it can be stressful for individuals to conform to society's norms and to maintain a certain standard of living. This can result in the loss of individualism. Since everyone is so caught up in this conformity, one could say, that we will all end up becoming unknown citizens. ...read more.

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