The Unknown Citizen

The Unknown Citizen

"The Unknown Citizen" is a poem by W. H. Auden. Auden wrote it in 1939, shortly after moving from England to the United States. The poem was first published in 1939 in The New Yorker, and first appeared in book form in Auden's collection Another Time (Random House, 1940).

The poem is the epitaph of a man, identified only by a combination of letters and numbers somewhat like an American Social Security number ("JS/07/M/378"), who is described entirely in external terms: from the point of view of government organizations such as the fictional "Bureau of Statistics." The speaker of the poem concludes that the man had lived an entirely average, therefore exemplary, life. The poem is a satire of standardization at the expense of individualism. The poem is implicitly the work of a government agency at some point in the future, when modern bureaucratizing trends have reached the point where citizens are known by arbitrary numbers and letters, not personal names.

Read more about The Unknown Citizen:  Interpretation

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The Unknown Citizen - Interpretation
... By describing the "average citizen" through the eyes of various government organizations, the poem criticizes standardization and the modern state's ... The epigraph to "Unknown Citizen" is a parody of the symbolic Tomb of the Unknown Soldier commemorating unidentified soldiers tombs of unknown soldiers were first ...

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