The unknown citizen

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In Auden’s 1939 poem “The Unknown Citizen,” (Auden, 955) Auden’s uses an exaggerated ironic tone to describe “The Unknown Citizen.” This tone indicates Auden’s sentiments of the government, war, and technology destroying the rights of the average citizen. Several key literary elements form the tone of this poem. The entire poem is satirical, with a humorous tone set throughout. With questions like “Was he free? Was he happy?” (Auden, 955) the author uses a sarcastic questioning method directed at the reader, essentially asking if they feel free and happy with the amount of government involvement in their life. In 1939, the year Auden wrote the “The Unknown Citizen” (Auden, 955) he had recently moved to New York City and became an American Citizen. Like many other western poets, he was struggling with a country that had a bigger government presence than his previous home. This poem was a vehicle to exercise some of his discontent with his new countries government. Auden starts out this poem by describing his title character with an inscription of “JS/07 M 378” (Auden, 955) on a marble monument; not his name, date of birth, date of death, accomplishments, or military service like most marble monuments. Instead, the citizen is given a group of letters and numbers, similar to that of something found on a set of military dog tags. The poem says that the statue was erected by the state almost as a thank you for never challenging us (government). The speaker of the poem then goes on to speak of the finding from the “Bureau of Statics.” (Auden, 955), which is an organization that does not care about a person’s character but does care about their statistics such as wages, number of family members, and other personal facts. This gives the reader a sense that “big brother” was watching this individual his whole life. The state then goes on to label all his accomplishments

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