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The Unknown Citizen

The Unknown Citizen

by W. H. Auden
 Table of Contents

The Unknown Citizen Passivity Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

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. (lines 16-17)


Again, Auden uses all his poetic powers to make the Unknown Citizen sound like a ghost. It never says that he bought the insurance policies – they were merely "taken out in his name." This makes the purchase sound like a passive decision. Throughout the poem, the reader views the Unknown Citizen at a distance, from the perspective of the investigators who are poring over his paper trail.

Quote #2

And had everything necessary to the Modern Man, A phonograph, a radio, a car and a Frigidaire (lines 20-21)


The Unknown Citizen buys whatever appliances and gizmos are considered "necessary" at the time, even if they aren’t really essential. What would this list include today? A new computer, iPod, and a flat screen TV?

Quote #3

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. (lines 22-24)


These lines are the very definition of passivity. He has no will of his own.

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