What is the irony in "The Unknown Citizen"?

The first irony in "The Unknown Citizen" is that this man is praised for being a nonentity, when usually people are honored for their special accomplishments. Second, it is ironic that the speaker of the poem dismisses as "absurd" what are normally the most important questions about a person's life, whether they are free and happy.

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It is ironic, first, that the unknown citizen is praised for being a nonentity, a person exactly like every other ordinary person in his society. He goes to work faithfully until the day he retires, has conventional views, is popular with his friends, reads the papers, has health insurance, and...

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It is ironic, first, that the unknown citizen is praised for being a nonentity, a person exactly like every other ordinary person in his society. He goes to work faithfully until the day he retires, has conventional views, is popular with his friends, reads the papers, has health insurance, and buys all the consumer goods expected of a middle-class person. He holds the officially approved opinions and is married with five children.

Normally, we would expect a person to be singled out for honor for doing something extraordinary or special. It is therefore ironic that it is ordinariness, even dullness, that makes this citizen notable.

Further, it is ironic that what are usually regarded as the traits most important to human life, freedom and happiness, are not considered. The poem's speaker says it is "absurd" to ask if the man was happy or free, noting that

had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.

Given that the man seems to have lived a robotic life, doing and thinking what he was told, we have to question whether he could be considered free. And if he was not free, could he have been happy? What is ironic is that we have every reason to question whether this man, inside himself, lead a rich or fulfilling life, rather than dismiss the question as ridiculous.

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