_________/_________/__________ William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”: blog
_________/_________/__________ Flannery O’Connor’s “Good Country People”: blog
_________/_________/__________ Sherwood Anderson’s “Mother”: blog
_________/_________/__________ John Steinbeck’s “The White Quail”: packet
_________/_________/__________ finish Steinbeck; review unit for test
Literary terms: modernism, black humor, dramatic vs. situational irony, foreshadowing, free verse, grotesque, imagery, inference
F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby represent this modernist era; they will be taught separately.
The Unknown Citizen by W.H Auden
(To JS/07/M/378 This Marble Monument Is Erected by the State)
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 odd in his views,
For his Union reports that he paid his dues,
(Our report on his 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 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.
The Unknown Citizen
Is there any way to tell whether the citizen acted from his own chosen values or because he had been perfectly programmed? (How does Auden make clear, in other words, that his intent is satire?)
In what sense can the citizen be called a “saint”? If he is a saint, why is he “unknown”?
“And our teachers report that he never interfered with their education”; what is implied by the choice of the pronoun “their”?
Do all the statistics on the unknown citizen add up to a coherent portrait? Is anything missing? (Note that his religion is not mentioned; should it be?
Assuming that Auden’s portrait is approximately what the establishment encourages — whether consciously or not — as a model, what would the result be if it succeeded in getting everyone to conform to that model? How would such a society differ from that pictured in Huxley’s Brave New World?
Try working out the rhyme scheme of the poem. Is there any regular rhythm (iambic pentameter, e.g.)? Do you think Auden was trying to write an “unpoetic poem”? Would there have been any advantage, given the subject, to making the meter and rhyme scheme monotonously regular?
The poem makes clear all the ingredients of the establishment’s recipe for a model citizen; are they arranged in any logical order? Should they be?
Do you think the last two lines are really necessary to the poem? What effect do they have? Are they out of character with the rest of the inscription on the monument?