The Unknown Citizen
by W.H. Auden
This is a poem, which when I first read it five years ago, spoke loudly to me, and it seems to still speak loudly about the human condition of today. It seemed to say everything that I and many people I knew had gone through growing up, especially when you meet a person who speaks and acts just like this “Unknown Citizen” and you get that eerie feeling during and after the encounter. This is a poem for any “Modern Man/Woman” who questions and observes the times in which he lives. This poem makes you wonder about the direction we are heading in as “people.”
Greg Hawkins, 24
Tutor/Student, San Jose
The Unknown Citizen
He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint,
And all the reports on his conduct agree
That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a saint,
For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
Except for the War till the day he retired
He worked in a factory and never got fired
But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
Yet he wasn’t a scab or add in his views,
For his Union reports that he paid his dues,
(Our report on the Union shows it was sound)
And our Social Psychology workers found
That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day
And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way
Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
And his Health-card shows he was once in hospital but left it cured.
Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare
He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Installment Plan
And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of the year;
When there was peace, he was for peace, when there was war, he went.
He was married and added five children to the population,
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his generation.
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their education.
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.