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The title of W. H. Auden's poem, "The Unknown Citizen" matches in satire the theme of his verse. Like the monuments erected after the World Wars that were perfunctorily dedicated by politicos to soldiers who died defending their country, but their bodies were never recovered, the monument to the unknown citizen, like that of the unknown soldier, honors only his deeds, not his person as they are of greater importance to the State.
This citizen, who is only recorded as a number, is honored for his very anonymity--an unknown citizen--because he has conformed to bureaucratic standards and never caused any problems, having "reactions to advertisements [that]were normal in every way." And,
When there was peace, he was for peace; when there was war, he went.
Like those of the unknown soldier, none of the feelings of the unknown citizen have been recognized,
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been srong, we should certainly have heard.
The sterile bureaucratic government that identifies the unknown citizen with a sterile number honors the unknown citizen precisely because his feelings have always been subjugated to the norms of the State in order to serve "the Greater Community." Clearly, Auden's theme that the large, bureaucratic Government reduces individuals to statistics and unknowns is in accord with the satiric title that suggests a marble monument is erected to a citizen because of this very anonymity.
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