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The Unknown Citizen

The Unknown Citizen

by W. H. Auden

Parodies and Irony

Symbol Analysis

The whole idea of the Unknown Citizen is a parody of the serious military concept of the Unknown Soldier, which was created in order to recognize the sacrifice of soldiers who died anonymously. The poem is dripping with irony, as the speaker lists off accomplishments that aren’t accomplishments at all. At many points, the poem directly parodies existing American companies or organizations.

  • Line 2: It’s ironic that a poem of praise would begin on such a dull and tepid point as the lack of "official complaints."
  • Line 8: Fudge Motors, Inc. sounds to us like a parody of Ford Motors, Inc, the biggest auto company in the world at the time. But more delicious.
  • Line 18: "Producers Research and High-Grade Living" are parodies of real consumer organizations like Consumer Reports and Good Housekeeping.
  • Line 19: To say that he was "fully sensible to the advantages of the Instalment Plan" is a hilarious understatement. He must have been aware at a higher level than his "senses."
  • Line 20: The phrase "everything necessary to the Modern Man" is a cliché used by advertisers to sell stuff. Today it sounds so old-fashioned that we can easily recognize it as such.

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