The Unknown Citizen by W. H. Auden Questions and Answers

  1. What does the number to JS/07/M/378 suggest?

Ans. It is a number by which the state identifies the unknown citizen. After his death, this number was inscribed on the marble monument created on his grave. But here Auden severely satirizes the modern state policy where the value of a man is reduced to a numerical number and people lose their individuality. What is more striking is that such number is given to a prisoner in jail. Perhaps, here Auden knocks at the human brain to know to what extent we have degraded as a result of which we lose our dignity and bureaucracy rules our country.

  1. What do you know about unknown citizen?

Ans. The unknown citizen was a man against whom there was no official complain. He worked in a factory and satisfied his employers. He paid his dues duly. Trade union reports in favour of him. He was preferred by his mates. He liked drinking and like a modern man, he possessed a gramophone, a radio, a car and a refrigerator. He was aware of the installment plans. He added 5 children to the population of the world. He had health card and insurance policies. All these show that he was a saint like man in modern sense of the old fashioned word. But, what is tragic is that inspite of having all these qualities, he was not regarded as a good man by the state authority.

  1. Give the meaning of ‘eugenist’ and ‘scab’. Where did the unknown citizen work?

Ans. Eugenist means an expert on race improvement. Actually, there are some specialist scientists who always work on the specialisation of human breeding and are given this term. This is purely a biological term.

The term ‘scab’ means slang or rascal. It also means one who refuses to join his fellows in a strike.

The unknown citizen worked in The Fudge Motors Inc., a modern factory undoubtedly.

  1. What question made about the unknown citizen is absurd? Was he free and happy?

Ans. The unknown citizen was a slave to his duties. He performed them duly. He always worked in such a style so that none could question him. As a result of which, forgetting all the affairs, he had to move within a routined boundary wherefrom no escape was possible. He never thought of going beyond that to retain his dignity. Now, if anybody ask “Was he free?” or “Was he happy?” undoubtedly, these will be absurd questions. Because, there was no question of freedom or happiness in his life. In spite of doing good deed, he was not valued as a man. So, if he looked for those things, then his condition is simply perceptible to us. As he was a mere puppet in the hands of bureaucracy, his freedom or happiness are unquestionable.

  1. What is the main theme of “The Unknown Citizen” by W. H. Auden?

Ans. The main theme of the poem is the dehumanizing and conformist nature of modern society, where individuality is sacrificed for the sake of societal norms and expectations.

  1. Who is the speaker of the poem?

Ans. The speaker is a government official or bureaucrat who is assessing the life and accomplishments of the “unknown citizen.”

  1. What does the poem suggest about the relationship between the individual and society?

Ans. The poem suggests that in a conformist society, individuals are expected to fit into prescribed roles and adhere to societal norms. Individuality and personal expression are sacrificed for the sake of conformity.

  1. What are some specific accomplishments and qualities attributed to the “unknown citizen” in the poem?

Ans. The poem lists several accomplishments and qualities, such as being “a saint,” “a good patriot,” and having “a grade A for breeding.” It also mentions his conformity to societal norms, including his marriage, children, and consumption habits.

  1. How does the poem comment on the role of government in shaping the lives of its citizens?

Ans. The poem implies that the government in this society plays a significant role in shaping the lives of its citizens by promoting conformity and evaluating individuals based on their ability to conform to societal norms.

  1. What is the overall message or moral of “The Unknown Citizen”?

Ans. The poem serves as a warning about the dangers of conformism and the loss of individuality in modern society. It encourages readers to question societal expectations and value individuality and personal expression.

  1. What is the purpose of the poem “The Unknown Citizen”?

Ans. The poem serves as a satirical critique of a society that values conformity and bureaucratic efficiency over individuality and personal freedom. Auden uses this poem to comment on the dehumanizing effects of modernity and the loss of individuality in a highly regulated and controlled society.

  1. What are some of the characteristics and achievements of the “Unknown Citizen” mentioned in the poem?

Ans. The poem lists several characteristics and achievements of the “Unknown Citizen,” including:

He held a job for 20 years.

He was a member of various organizations and unions.

He paid his dues promptly.

He never got fired from his job.

He had the correct opinions on various political and social issues.

He was married and had children.

He insured his life and property.

He didn’t engage in radical behavior or dissent.

These characteristics are meant to emphasize how thoroughly he conformed to societal norms.

  1. What is the significance of the title “The Unknown Citizen”?

Ans. The title “The Unknown Citizen” is significant because it underscores the idea that despite all the conformity and compliance with societal expectations, the individual remains unknown and uncelebrated as a unique person. The poem challenges the notion that being an “unknown” in the eyes of society is a measure of success.

  1. What is the message or lesson conveyed by the poem?

Ans. The poem conveys a message about the dangers of conformity and the loss of individuality in a highly regulated and bureaucratic society. It suggests that when individuals prioritize fitting into societal norms at the expense of their own uniqueness and freedom, they become “unknown” even though they have followed all the rules. The poem serves as a warning against the dehumanizing effects of such a society.

  1. How does the poem use irony to convey its message?

Ans. The poem uses irony to highlight the discrepancy between the “perfect” life of the Unknown Citizen as seen by the government and the true, complex nature of the individual. For example, the poem lists the Citizen’s conformity to various societal expectations as if they are achievements, but the reader can see the hollowness of these accomplishments in the context of his individuality being erased.

  1. Who is the “Unknown Citizen” in the poem?

Ans. The “Unknown Citizen” in the poem is an average, conforming citizen whose life is thoroughly documented and controlled by the government and society. He represents the ideal citizen from the perspective of the government, but he is also nameless and devoid of individuality.

  1. What is the tone of the poem?

Ans. The tone of the poem is satirical and critical. Auden uses irony and sarcasm to mock the idea of a perfectly conforming citizen as an ideal. He suggests that this conformity strips away individuality and leads to a meaningless, controlled existence.

  1. What is the significance of the marble monument mentioned in the poem?

Ans. The marble monument represents the government’s desire to immortalize the “Unknown Citizen” as a model of conformity and ideal citizenship. It symbolizes the way the state reduces individuals to statistics and uses them to bolster its image of efficiency and control.

  1. What are some examples of the government’s control and surveillance in the poem?

Ans. The poem mentions several ways in which the government exercises control and surveillance over the “Unknown Citizen.” These include the detailed records of his life, his conformity to social norms, his good behavior, and the fact that he held the right opinions. All of these aspects are meticulously documented and celebrated.

  1. What is the central message or critique that Auden conveys through “The Unknown Citizen”?

Ans. The central message of the poem is a critique of the dehumanizing effects of bureaucracy, conformity, and the relentless pursuit of an idealized citizen. Auden suggests that in striving for this ideal, society and the government strip individuals of their unique identities and turn them into mere cogs in a machine. The poem warns against the loss of personal freedom and individuality in the pursuit of a highly controlled and regulated society.

3 thoughts on “The Unknown Citizen by W. H. Auden Questions and Answers”

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