What do the poem "The Unknown Citizen" and the short story "How Much Land Does A Man Need" have in common?"The Unknown Citizen" by W.H. Auden and "How Much Land Does a Man Need?" by Leo Tolstoy.  

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

W. H. Auden's poem "The Unknown Citizen" is in brief a memorial to a symbolic, but unknown citizen who is being praised for his excellent consumerism and expertise in acquiring goods along with other laudable things, like not causing trouble at work. Since the poem is a memorial, this citizen has died.

Tolstoy's masterful short story "How Much Land Does A Man Need?" has points in common with Auden's poem. The short story starts out with two sisters--one is the wife of a prosperous tradesman in town and the other the wife of a peasant who is scraping out a living in the country--who debate among themselves the virtues and vices of having plenty versus having enough. Thus one point in common is the praise given by the town sister to consumerism and acquiring goods.

Pahom, the peasant sister's peasant husband, has overheard their conversation and has been driven to secretly covet more land so he might have greater wealth. This leads to a interesting involvement from the Devil whereby Pahom's eventual greed (which builds and builds over time) leads to his running farther and farther in an attempt to gain more and more land before the sun goes down. The suspense of Tolstoy's writing ends with the peasant in the same place as the citizen in Auden's poem: in death. And this is a second thing both have in common.

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