The Average Citizen
In “The Unknown Citizen” (Auden 95), W. H. Auden depicts a man who is set as a moral standard by the State for his clean life record. A Saint is originally used to address a highly virtuous person who is extremely kind, patient and unselfish. Therefore, when the man is described in the poem as a Saint only for his not doing anything wrong, it becomes at once ironical and absurd. The comparison displays clearly Auden’s view of the society as a mechanical and dehumanized community where its State marks citizens only by statistics, report and data and its members are confined to be average.
With a meticulous selection of terms like “normal reactions”, “proper opinions”, “right number” (95) etc, Auden satirizes the State that judges people’s morality entirely by external factors sustained by the record of those public institutions. State imposes strict control and surveillance upon its citizens. Cold facts like he paid his dues to his Union and how many children he had are given considerable weight; yet his innate feeling such as whether he’s happy or not is neglected. Seen from the spokesman’s confession in the last two lines, also obvious is that the State is ready to take strong actions if anything the citizens do is politically unacceptable. And it is to the pursuit of average citizen who can hardly be any threat to the State dictatorship, the unknown citizen marked only by JS/07 M 378—a string a letters and numbers—is commented and for whom the marble monument is erected. So and so, it’s clear that Auden is warning us that a mindless and cold-hearted State as such is depriving people of their individuality and that the result on the citizens may be devastating.
Individuals who together with State form an integrated part of society have lost their individualities and originalities. The citizen portrayed in the poem is obviously average. For all his life he has been doing what the majority does, not bold enough to defiance and not too coward...