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The Unknown Citizen

The Unknown Citizen

by W. H. Auden

The Unknown Citizen Analysis

Symbols, Imagery, Wordplay

Welcome to the land of symbols, imagery, and wordplay. Before you travel any further, please know that there may be some thorny academic terminology ahead. Never fear, Shmoop is here. Check out our...

Form and Meter

An "elegy" is a poem about a dead person. These types of poems can be sad and mopey or grand and celebratory. "The Unknown Citizen" is of the grand and celebratory variety, but it’s also a sa...

Speaker

We’re so familiar with the uptight bureaucrat as a source of parody that it’s easy to forget that we didn’t always have bureaucrats. It wasn’t until governments got really h...

Setting

It’s hard to know what kind of setting to imagine for this poem. You’ve got the setting of the monument on which the poem is inscribed, and then you’ve got the setting of The Big...

Sound Check

This poem could be the first number of a really wild Andrew Lloyd Weber musical that is set in the windowless office building of a government bureaucracy. All you’d have to do is add some sim...

What's Up With the Title?

"The Unknown Citizen" is a parody of the "The Unknown Soldier," a term used to recognize people whose bodies are found after a battle but cannot be identified. The U.S. Army uses metal dog tags to...

Calling Card

It’s hard to pull off rhymes in 20th century poetry. First, because it sounds old-fashioned, like you’re trying too hard to write "Poetry." Second, because there aren’t many "mast...

Tough-O-Meter

Ah, Auden. This poem is so simple, yet so intelligent. It takes a great writer to pull that off. The poem has hardly any metaphors and only a handful of historical vocab words. It sounds like somet...

Brain Snacks

Sex Rating

The poem doesn’t talk about the sex life of the Unknown Citizen, but he must have had sex at some point, because his wife gave birth to five babies. Nonetheless, we are going to take a stab i...

Shout Outs

"The Unknown Citizen" resembles the idea of "The Unknown Soldier" (title, epigraph)Eugenics (line 26)"Fudge Motors, Inc." sounds a lot like Ford Motors, Inc. (line 8)"Producers Research and High-Gr...

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