Mistaken Journal [The Unknown Citizen]


PosterĄG E.K TAN at 1:30:11 12/6/97 from tpproxy5.hinet.net
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Tan Eng Kiong (E.K) Ray
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"The Unknown Citizen" by W.H Auden
"The Unknown Citizen" is a poem written most probably by the poet after visiting the Marble Monument.
The speaker of this poem seems to be someone from the state committee or an official from the State. He is someone who works according to rules and regulations. He ensures that the unknown citizen obeys the rules, did everything in order. He sounds monotonous in describing the events and records of the unknown citizen. To the speaker, proves and analysis from the Bureaus of Statistics, Social Psychology workers, High-grade living and other specialists are extremely important to grade and categorize the unknown citizen. He emphasizes on routine. The poet actually has an extremely different view of the unknown citizen which is actually the opposite of the speaker*s explanation. This will be discussed at the end of the journal.
The poem uses much irony. The title of the poem "The Unknown Citizen" is the greatest irony that engulfs the motive and meaning of the poem. We have ironic phrases like "in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word. I would like to discuss on the irony of "For in everything he did he served the Greater Community." To the state and the society, the seems to be happy as long as he is not different from any others. However, the unknown citizen might not be doing all those in order to serve the Greater Community, because the unknown citizen knows that by doing so, he is secured and advantages will be collected on his side. The speaker thinks that by working in order, the unknown citizen serves the Greater Community; On the contrary, the unknown citizen might think that by working in order, he protected his rights, he might not know about the contribution to the Greater community. Lets get back to the modern sense and old-fashion word. The unknown citizen had been doing well in the eyes of the speaker, the speaker even described him as a saint, but sense of irony was created when the speaker commented it to be an old-fashioned word of a modern sense. It seems like the unknown citizen is sort of out of fashion, not suppose to be alive in this environment, like a saint who could follow the rules without any disagreement, in spite of his behavior that favors the speaker and his allies. Further on the irony is brought out again, saying that this old-fashioned saint was having everything necessary to the modern man, e.g. phonology etc.
The unknown citizen is someone who pays the taxes, satisfies the employers, read the newspaper daily, have the correct number of children, fights for the peace and supports the war etc. In spite of all these facts, the citizen remains "unknown" we do not see any strong traits in this unknown citizen. He is merely like any other ordinary man we can find around us. He works in the way the society runs. We could not see how special he appears or anything that could distinguish him from others. Thus, even we know a lot of all this facts, we might not be able to recognize him.
From the last two lines of the poem, we know that the speaker actually thought that the search for freedom and happiness are just ridiculous. If the system they have now is not a good one ,people should have sound out long ago. Ironically, things are not going on well, it is just that there is no one who dares to be different; dares to bring out the problems. The poet suggests that our society has created a set of rules and regulations in which individuals are suppose to follow and work as the system states. The stress for individuals to conform in this system makes one loses his or her individualism. Thus creating an "unknown citizen." Since everyone is the same, no one is known to us.
This poem is a satire as it uses the view of a speaker who is speaking on the level of thinking that is opposite to the poet; creating the effect of criticism. Showing the opposite or incorrect sight of life in order to lead readers to think of the actual stand we should be on. Irony is the object used to create criticism.


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