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"The Unknown Citizen" Analysis
Transcript of "The Unknown Citizen" Analysis
(The government has created this marble epitaph for JS/07/M/378)
The Bureau of Statistics proclaimed that he
Did not have any complaints lodged against him,
And all files regarding his behaviour concur
That, to use an archaic term in a new way, he was a saint,
As all of his actions were committed for society’s benefit.
There was a lapse during the war but for the entirety of his tenure
He worked in a production plant and was maintained on payroll,
As he was a good employee to Fudge Motors Inc.
But he didn’t tattle on his coworkers and seemed normal,
As his Union’s files show that he was a paying member,
(We’ve investigated the Union and found nothing alarming)
Furthermore, our Social Psychology department sees
That he was well-liked by his friends and appreciated a drink from time to time.
Our journalists have reason to believe that he subscribed to their publication
And that he had the engineered responses to paid promotions.
There is a record of insurance policies in his name,
And there is another record of him visiting a hospital and being treated successfully.
Producers Research and High-grade Living unanimously state
That he knew the benefits a special payment plan service would afford him
And he possessed the essentials of a contemporary life,
a phonograph, a radio, an automobile, and a refrigerator.
Our pollsters comfortably declare
That he agreed with the appropriate public opinion at the appropriate time;
He was a pacifist during times of harmony; he fought during wars.
He was married and had five children,
And our Eugenist confirms that this was proper for his age group.
And our educators have no complaints about him impeding their education.
Did he have freedom? Was he happy? It would be ridiculous to ask:
If anything had been amiss, we would have found that information. The poem's classification is debatable.
b. Lyric? a. Narrative? We have enough information
to characterize his life story c. Neither? Worked for Fudge Motors Personable Middle-class Married with five kids The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Arlington, VA "Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God." Resting place of WWI, WWII, Vietnam, and Korean war veterans The narrator is trying hard to honor the citizen's life. Not a comprehensive story Several details missing Not emotional Product of bureaucracy (TO JS/07/M/378 THIS MARBLE MONUMENT IS ERECTED BY THE STATE)
He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint,
And all the reports on his conduct agree
That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a saint,
For in everything he did he served the Greater Community. 5
Except for the War till the day he retired
He worked in a factory and never got fired,
But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
Yet he wasn't a scab or odd in his views,
For his Union reports that he paid his dues, 10
(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)
And our Social Psychology workers found
That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day
And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way. 15
Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
And his Health-card shows he was once in hospital but left it cured.
Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare
He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Installment Plan
And had everything necessary to the Modern Man, 20
A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace; when there was war, he went.
He was married and added five children to the population, 25
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his generation.
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their education.
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard. Electronic
Overhead * Northwestern '15 Theme If one conforms, one risks losing one’s identity altogether. A society that drives its members to conformity is one that dehumanizes them. Voice Tone: matter-of-fact, confident *second stanza may be sarcastic Other theme topics Standardization Passivity Patriotism What tone means Persona Point of view Irony Verbal Dramatic Situational Words Diction Largely concrete
Few abstract words = restricted emotion Allusions to the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier, Consumer Reports, Good Housekeeping Word Order
and Levels of Usage Saying and Suggesting Denotation trumps connotation in this piece. Some items represent "modern" trends. Imagery Poetic Devices Present Absent Metaphor Overstatement Paradox Simile Personification Metonymy Synecdoche Pun The lack of imaginative poetic devices speaks volumes about the society that produced this elegy. Have emotional capabilities been lost? Sound Rhythm You are dead. :( (On the bright side, you get to skip AP Exams.) Take a minute to write a short epitaph. We will be discussing these at the end of this presentation. Largely anapestic tetrameter ('Twas the night before Christmas) No rigid scheme Sounds too Doctor Seuss-like (Seuss-ical?)
to be an epitaph. Form Open Though there is a rhyme scheme and the poem's meter is generally maintained, Auden doesn't follow a predefined set of rules. We started here * Gravestone activity