What is Auden's attitude towards the unknown citizen in his poem "The Unknown Citizen?"  

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that Auden holds a variety of attitudes in his poem.  Yet, I think that he feels a particular sadness of the state of affairs that envelop the modern body politic, "the unknown citizen."  Auden sees a collusion between business, technology, and government as having reduced the complexity of the citizenry to patterned and predictable conformity.  In his poem, he talks about how the "unknown citizen" bought the products he was supposed to buy and that he articulated opinions that he was supposed to articulate.  Technology has created a system where external forces can know and determine what individuals will do.  It is in this light that Auden feels a sense of sadness for the citizens who have to endure such a state of affairs and anger masked in satire for those in the position of power who construct being in the world in such a manner.  For Auden, the external forces that are upon the modern body politic are too strong and severe to be repelled without a great deal of dissent and resistance.  For this condition, Auden feels sadness as a sense of despair echoes in his recasting of the modern condition.

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