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The Unknown Citizen

The Unknown Citizen


by W. H. Auden

The Unknown Citizen Manipulation Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (line)

Quote #1

He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint. (lines 1-2)

Is the lack of an "official complaint" the reason he gets a monument dedicated to him? It’s as if the State were saying, "If you don’t cause us any headaches, monument-viewer, you could have a nice big marble monument, too!" The problem with monuments is that you usually only get one after you die. When you think about it, it’s a pretty paltry payoff for a lifetime of straightedge existence. These lines an interesting question: what would have happened to the Unknown Citizen if there had been an official complaint against him? Would the still be dedicated to him?

Quote #2

For the Union reports that he paid his dues,
(Our report on his Union shows it was sound) (lines 10-11)

In this society, there isn’t just one over-arching bureaucracy. There are many different layers of bureaucracy, and they are all looking over their shoulders at the level below. That’s paranoia for you. In this case, the Union is watching over the Unknown Citizen to make sure he pays his dues, and the government is watching over the Union to make sure it doesn’t encourage communist and socialist agitators.

Quote #3

The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day
And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way. (lines 14-15)

We have no idea how the Press would know these things, but it probably involves some sneakiness and manipulation. Do they have a guy follow him around town to see if he buys a paper? Or maybe they just interviewed his friends and coworkers. Nor do we know exactly what a "normal" reaction to an advertisement is, apart from the one desired by the advertiser: buying stuff.

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