The Unknown Citizen

“The Unknown Citizen” Summary and analysis

W.H Auden
Poet W.H Auden
Poem The Unknown Citizen
GenresSatirical Poem
Published “The Listener” 1939

Introduction of the “The unknown citizen “

The unknown citizen was first published in the magazine ‘The listener’ Later it was published in Auden’s volume ‘collected shorter poems’  in 1950. “The Unknown Citizen”  is about an average member of society.

The poem also contains Satirical comments On the contemporary society that compels the individual to lead a life of conformity to its values. Of course, the citizen remains In the grip of govt. and its bureaucratic setup. 

The individual has no identity of his own.  Hence he is known and is referred to by the number allotted to him by the governments as Js/07/M378. 


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 Instalment 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.

Summary and analysis

The unknown citizen is a satirical poem. the poem reveals the poet’s serious concern for the life of an individual in modern society.

The poem is written in the form of an epitaph engraved on the marble monuments erected by the state in memory of the unknown citizen who is referred to by his number. the name of the citizen has not been mentioned.

  it shows that the state compels an individual Toulouse his identity. he has a collective identity in place of his own.

According to  Dennis Division, “The poem light thought it is, it appears,  is attaching the concept of human being in who is not much more than the product of all the economic and audiological pressure groups which Force him to conform to standard pattern life and thought.  modern mass organizations, such as the factory of the trade, impose an infirmity On the individual.

The main theme of the poem is a  protest against various pressures such As social groups and administrative bureaucratic setup. the poet is in favour of individual freedom and identity. 

Discuss ‘The Unknown Citizen’ as a satire?

The poem ‘Unknown Citizen’ is a mild satirs against the life of the average man who is the productof the modern scientfic world. He is the Product of economic and commercial thoughts and plans. Auden is very critical of the mass organisations that compel people to live a machine life and kill individuals identity.

What is the message in The Unknown Citizen?

The poem is a proudy.  It attacks the concept of the modern pattern of life of human beings.Man has lost his Individual freedom and identity. auden sympathizers with the modern man. he does not like that an average citizen should be deprived of his personal freedom and be reduced tour machine.