Is the poem "The Unknown Citizen" a proper way to give tribute to someone? "Was he happy, Was he free?"

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amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Auden is being very ironic in this poem.  Although it appears to be a glowing tribute of this person whose name is never mentioned, it is actually just the opposite.  If he were such a "glowing" citizen, his name would be known.  This poem is an argument against WWI and all those who died and were not identified for burial.  It is also a question as to how we live our lives on a daily basis.  Is it true that just because we don't "hear" of anything being wrong, that it isn't wrong?  Do people always voice their discontent?  "Was he happy, Was he free" is probably an answer to that...just because people go to work, get married, have children, never interfere with their education, etc. doesn't mean they're happy or free.  It could mean just the opposite--our unknown citizen felt trapped by the rules of society and what everyone else was doing...so much so that he fell into the trap and followed along with the masses.  He didn't do anything extraordinary.  He was not free to make his own choices or to explore his own freedoms.  He was trapped by society, by the bills he had to pay, by the mouths he had to feed.  There was no freedom for him to do what he wanted and when he wanted...there was only go to work, earn the money, spend the money on the bills and the children, and do this until you die.  He did exactly what everyone else expected of him...no individuality at all.  How very sad.