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The Unknown Citizen

The Unknown Citizen


by W. H. Auden

The Unknown Citizen Patriotism Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (line)

Quote #1

And all the reports on his conduct agree
That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a saint,
For in everything he did he served the Greater Community. (lines 3-5)

In this state, religion is considered "old-fashioned," probably because it is considered a competitor to the interests of the nation. Can patriotism be a religious phenomenon? What is the "modern sense" of the word "saint," and who is included or left out in "the Greater Community"? The idea here actually sounds fairly appealing, but in the words of the speaker, it comes across as creepy. Why?

Quote #2

Except for the War till the day he retired
He worked in a factory and never got fired,
But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc. (lines 6-8)

In the 1930s and now, doing one’s job and contributing to the economy are considered patriotic. On the totem pole of bureaucracies, the government is slightly above the corporation, which is why the State can call citizens away from their jobs to serve in the army during a war. These lines are the first to indicate that the setting of the poem is probably America. Are Americans more patriotic than other nations? What are the benefits and drawbacks of our kind of patriotism?

Quote #3

(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)

During the 1930s, many people were concerned that labor unions were secretly plotting to overthrow the government and bring about a communist society. If your union was "unsound," you were considered unpatriotic.

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