Modern Man – The Unknown Citizen (Auden) Essay, Research Paper
The English-born American writer Wystan Hugh Auden was one of the most important poets of the 20th century. Educated at Oxford, he attracted attention as a prominent member of a group of young leftist writers who generally expressed a socialist viewpoint. The poem I have chosen for this essay is “The Unknown Citizen”. I felt the time period reflected W.H. Auden’s views, making the unknown citizen an example of the government’s view of the perfect modern man in an overrated unrealistic society.In the time period that he wrote this poem in the late 1930’s America was going through tremendous changes. This is the period in history in which The Great Depression was in effect. Most people living in the United States values, morals, and ethics were rapidly diminishing. The Great Depression fundamentally changed the relationship between the government and the people, who came to expect and accept a larger federal role in their lives and the economy. Throughout this time period Social Security was created.Back then this poem must have had a different meaning than today, it shows the value government has on issuing Social Security numbers. They make people believe it’s for your own benefit when in reality they have the best use of it to track and retrieve information about your personal life. We see government as people we elected to represent our views they see us as a number. “Was he free? Was he happy? The question was absurd: Had anything been wrong we should certainly have heard (Auden 212)”.I also felt he was expressing the fact that government makes it seem that everyone else is doing the “right thing” so you must follow him or her, and if you do so living a quality life will reward you. Their standards are so high that you will never reach the optimum point, so you work hard your whole life trying to improve. “His poems and essays present the idea of the good society as, at best, a possibility, never actually achieved, but which one must always work (Mendalson 112)”. “Auden’s poems speak instead in a voice almost unknown to English poetry science the eighteenth century: the voice of a citizen who knows the obligations of his citizenship (Mendalson 113).”This poem made me see things in a totally different perspective. Now I understand that the modern man isn’t always the best choice of living. People today move so fast, they never get a chance to slow down and realize that there are more important things in life than being the picture perfect, like love and happiness. I felt the time period reflected W.H. Auden’s views, making the unknown citizen an example of the government’s view of the perfect modern man in an overrated unrealistic society.