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The Unknown Citizen

The Unknown Citizen


by W. H. Auden

The Unknown Citizen Passivity Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (line)

Quote #4

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 #5

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 #6

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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