Throwback Thursday: “The Unknown Citizen” by W. H. Auden (1939) – Discussion Questions and Perfect Intro

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.

“The Unknown Citizen” by W. H. Auden (1939)

Discussion Questions and Perfect Intro

Discussion Questions:

1 – The “unknown citizen” represents modern citizens, who, according to the poem, are programmed like machines. How does the title help establish the tone of the poem?

The title is an allusion to “The Unknown Solider.” The “unknown citizen” is being honored for his conformity – a parody to the soldier’s sacrifice. The citizen is unremarkable in every way, without even a name. The fact that everything about the citizen is known, yet the title calls him “unknown” shows what the state of Auden’s world values and devalues – material worth is measured and quantified, but any human value, such as a name, is forgotten, not worth remembering. The tone of the poem is clinical and ominous, touting virtues of this unknown man, with intimate details, showing the breadth of surveillance typical of this world, and the distance taken to any human emotion, with phrases like “added five children to the population” shows the clinical way the state is speaking of this citizen, wishing for machine-like conforming citizens rather than real, living, breathing people. From the title onwards, you know everything human about this citizen has been taken from his elegy.


2 – Who is the speaker? What is his attitude toward the unknown citizen? Cite examples to prove this.

The speaker in the state, or at least a mouthpiece of the state, as it is the state touting the virtues of this unknown citizen and referring to the way different government agencies reported data on him, with phrases such as “Our researchers” to show who the speaker is. His attitude towards the unknown citizen is clinical, listing statistical data rather than any human or emotional information on him. The speaker points out that he “held the proper opinions” and owned what he ought to such as “a phonograph, a radio, a car” but in referring to his children it is phrased clinically, “he…added five children to the population.” The speaker also sounds proud of the unknown citizen, conveying his conformity is a virtue and an emulatable accomplishment, listing statistics about him that they consider positive. Everything he did was right, he had “no official complaint” against him, “he bought a paper everyday”, he “was normal in every way” says the speaker with a tone that conveys that other citizens should seek to be like this unknown citizen.


3 – Identify which types of irony are present in the poem and support with examples.

There is situational irony throughout “The Unknown Citizen” because this “unknown citizen” is being honored by the state with a monument, and they know everything about him, save for his name. If you remember someone, their name is typically the first thing you know. This type of memorializing is typically for those who showed immense bravery or otherwise did something remarkable, but this man is perfectly average and remembered for conformity. There could also be considered to be situational irony in the last two lines of the poem specifically; “Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd: Had anything been wrong, we should have certainty heard.” These lines give the impression that freedom and happiness are not typically sought after, though they are generally considered ideals, but rather a sign of something “wrong” with a person. Elegy’s are typically very sincere and emotional, yet that of the “unknown citizen” is clinical and distanced from him as a human being.

The context of the poem could be considered dramatic irony, as a reader in 2018 would know how much closer the modern world has come to Auden vision than Auden ever could have expected in 1939.

Perfect Intro Prompt:

The poem “The Unknown Citizen” by W. H. Auden serves to paint a picture of a world where people are reduced to statistics and government reports. In a well-organized essay, explain how Auden conveys the sterility and soullessness of the modern world, and the techniques he uses to express his attitude, pay particular attention to tone and theme. Use specific references to the poem.

Perfect Intro:

With a clinical, ominous tone and a permeating theme of conformity, W. H. Auden’s “The Unknown Citizen” shows the deterioration of the modern world, as individuality is replaced by submission, and pen-and-paper statistics are valued more than a person’s soul, where sterile existence has replaced any emotion as trivial as happiness. The titular “unknown citizen” is a perfect model, but his name is irrelevant to history; Auden’s vision of the modern world is bleak, with ideal humans more akin to machines.


Top 5 Wednesday (Rewind): Books That Would Make Good Video Games

Top Five Wednesday is a book meme that Lainey started, and is now hosted by Sam at Thoughts on Tomes.
If you want to join in checkout the Goodreads page!

April 12th: Books That Would Make Good Video Games
–Since I’ve been in video game hell (in a good way) for the past year, this topic is timely. Remember, not all video games are action games! The Sims has proven that 🙂

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, #1)

Steelheart (The Reckoners, #1)

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1)

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Ready Player One (Ready Player One, #1)

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Worlds I’d Never Want to Live In

Top Ten Tuesdays are a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.
As always this list is in no particular order.

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

May 29: Bookish Worlds I’d Never Want to Live In

Panem from The Hunger Games

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Westeros from the A Song of Ice and Fire 

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The world of Shatter Me 

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The world of The Darkest Minds

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The world of The 5th Wave

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The world of Illuminae

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The world of Renegades

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Ravka from The Grisha Verse

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Tags I Have Pending

I’m pretty terrible at doing tags in a timely manner. But, I want to finish and schedule all my pending tags before I leave for college – to have a clean blogging slate.

So, here my all my pending tags, to shame me into actually doing them.

The Nostalgia Tag

I Choose You Tag

My Bad Reading Habits Tag

My Name in TBR Books Tag

Superlatives Tag

Ghibli Heroines Tag

Kiss Marry Cliff Tag

Unforgettable Bookish Memories Tag

The Narnia Book Tag

Real Neat Blog Award

Book Blogger Recognition Award

The Meme Book Tag

Romance Fails In Fiction Tag

You’re Not Good Enough Tag

The Norse Mythology Book Tag

12 Days of Christmas Book Tag

The Not All Books Tag

The Harry Potter Book Tag

Rock My TBR Song and Book Tag

Zombie Apocalypse Book Tag

The Norse Mythology Book Tag

Black Cat Blue Sea Award

The Uniquely Me Tag

Music Genre Book Tag: Volume 2

The Emperors New Clothes Tag

Silly Senior Superlatives – Book Tag Edition

The Hogwarts Tag

Book vs Book Tag

Disney Descendants Book Tag

Time and Place Book Tag

How I Chose My Books Tag

The Bookish Book Lover Tag

Burn, Rewrite, Reread Book Tag

Kiss, Marry, Kill – Book Characters Tag

The Book Trailer Challenge Tag

35 pending tags!

Netgalley Review: I’m Not Your Sweet Babboo!

Pick up a glass of milk, curl up with your security blanket, and enjoy the timeless brilliance of Peanuts in this new collection of comic strips!

Everyone’s favorite classic characters are back: Peppermint Patty enrolls in a private school to end her academic troubles—only to discover she’s just graduated from obedience school. Linus finds himself entangled in a love triangle (and stuck on top of a snow-covered roof). And Charlie Brown runs away from the law and becomes a vagrant baseball coach.

The Peanuts crew is lovable, popular, and charming, but please whatever you do, don’t call Linus “My Sweet Babboo!”

4 Stars

This was a cute collection. My sister LOVES Peanuts (has apps, books and all the old movies, as well as the new one) so I’ve heard and seen more Peanuts than you’d think. I like The Peanuts, but too much starts grating on my nerves (I think its a sister thing, if she likes it, it automatically begins harder for me to like it).

I thought this was a cute collection though. Well illustrated and it flowed well. I read it all at once and skimmed through it a little, but thought it was enjoyable.

Netgalley Review: Music in Disney’s Animated Features

In Music in Disney’s Animated Features James Bohn investigates how music functions in Disney animated films and identifies several vanguard techniques used in them. In addition he also presents a history of music in Disney animated films, as well as biographical information on several of the Walt Disney Studios’ seminal composers.

The popularity and critical acclaim of Disney animated features truly is built as much on music as it is on animation. Beginning with Steamboat Willie and continuing through all of the animated features created under Disney’s personal supervision, music was the organizing element of Disney’s animation. Songs establish character, aid in narrative, and fashion the backbone of the Studios’ movies from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs through The Jungle Book and beyond.

Bohn underscores these points while presenting a detailed history of music in Disney’s animated films. The book includes research done at the Walt Disney Archives as well as materials gathered from numerous other facilities. In his research of the Studios’ notable composers, Bohn includes perspectives from family members, thus lending a personal dimension to his presentation of the magical Studios’ musical history. The volume’s numerous musical examples demonstrate techniques used throughout the Studios’ animated classics.

4 Stars

This book goes in depth not only on the famous Disney movie songs, but the scores and character themes, from the earliest Disney cartoons and shorts (Steamboat Willie, Mickey cartoons, Silly Symphonies) through the earlier Disney movies (through The Jungle Book). It goes in depth on the composition, and how the scores made the movies whole and affected their acclaim, as well as all the composers who played a part. With bits of sheet music in-between to help illustrate which parts there were talking about.

I thought this was really well put together and super interesting, though I’ll admit I skimmed it more than read, but thats because I have a less than limited understanding of sheet music/composition and its so detailed that I didn’t care as much to read it fully – nothing against the book thats just me.

Its great for Disney and music fans.

Before I Leave For College TBR

I have a lot of books. More books that I haven’t read than that I have. I cannot bring all these books to a tiny dorm room in North Carolina all the way from South Florida.

So I need to read this summer. A Lot.

I start driving up for school August 15th. School doesn’t end until June 4th, but I am done with testing and the bulk of my school work. So, from now till August 15th, these are my reading goals.

These books are:

  • Books I own physically (not ebooks)
  • Books I’ve been meaning to read for TOO LONG.
  • Some may be books I’ve been meaning to re-read for a long time.

  • Illuminae
  • Gemina
  • Obsidio
  • Norse Mythology
  • City of Heavenly Fire
  • Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy
  • The Language of Thorns
  • Caraval
  • Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda
  • The Upside of Unrequited
  • Leah on the offbeat
  • Stay Sweet
  • Almost Midnight
  • Because You Love to Hate Me
  • Summer Day Summer Nights
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
  • And probably some other books if I can…

Throwback Thursday: “A Temporary Matter”

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.

“A Temporary Matter”

  1.    What is the significance of Shukumar seeing the neighbors walking past as he looks out the kitchen window after Shoba has told him that she has found an apartment?

The significance of Shukumar seeing the neighbors walking past after Shoba tells him she has found an apartment is that he will never again have that with Shoba, he will never again walk home with her, they have a relationship that he and Shoba no longer have.

  1.    How would you explain the symbolism shown in the short story “A Temporary Matter”? There is a great deal of symbolism, so take your time and be specific.

Many things in “A Temporary Matter” can be taken as symbols in the story. The major symbol being darkness. For the four days that the power is out for an hour every night, Shoba and Shukumar finally begin to talk to each other again. They  cannot face each other in the light, but they can in the darkness. They are in the dark physically, and to each other’s feelings and motivations. Shoba is working up courage to tell him she is leaving, he wants to reconcile with her. He knows the gender of their child. They are in the dark, but are exposing secrets of themselves to each other, really seeing each other for the first time in months.

The repair of the downed power line is also a symbol. The line fell in a storm and is being repaired. As the line is being repaired in that hour of darkness each night, Shukumar feels he is repairing his relationship with Shoba. Just as the repairs are finished early for the power line, Shoba ends their relationship earlier than their vows would have suggested.

Throughout their dinners, Shukumar stacks Shoba’s plate on top of his own. A symbol for how he puts her grief before his own, shouldering her mother’s blame of the stillbirth being an example, because she needed her mother. At the very end, he stacks his own plate on top of hers, acknowledging his own grief.

They way they are with each others mothers can also be a symbol. When Shukumar’s mother comes to visit for two weeks, Shoba cannot fully tolerate it, she goes out drinking with Gillian instead. When Shoba’s mother stays for two months, Shukumar expects this fully, and tolerates the blame Shoba’s mother puts on him, ignoring that he lost his child too. He has patience with her mother, and with Shoba herself, giving her time to grieve, putting her grief before his own many times. Shoba has less patience, is more inclined to give up rather than deal with a difficult thing, shown when she decides to leave him after six months of avoiding talking about what had happened.

  1.     The ending of this short story is very uncertain.  How do you feel this story and ends and what in the literature supports your position?

At the end, Shoba and Shukumar have not reconciled. Shoba intends to move out, but they have finally told each other their greatest secrets, Shukumar’s being the gender of their child, which makes Shoba finally understand that he feels the loss of their child ust as acutely as she does. Because they are finally getting to a place that they can talk to each other about their grief, about their stillborn child, there is hope for them to reconcile fully later on down the line. Shoba was obviously torn up about leaving him but she also looks at him in the light in more than passing at the end. Shukumar still loves her, it wouldn’t hurt him as much if he didn’t. It is very likely they they will try and work things out. In terms of support from the literature, at the very end they “wept together”, grieving as a couple instead of separately as they had been doing the past six months. Neither reached any peace or ease to their grief suffering alone, grieving apart only drove them further apart, for the first time they grieve together. Shoba also obviously still cares for him, having spent five days building up courage to tell him she was leaving, she obviously wanted to minimize the hurt she caused him, she didn’t just up and leave as she could have. That is what she would have done if it was a matter of no longer caring for him.

  1.    Do you feel that Shoba is unfair in how she treats Shukumar? If so, why?

Every attempt made by Shukumar to engage Shoba is rebuffed, until he begins to avoid her completely, until the power outages. Shukumar begins to take care of the house and cook the way Shoba used to, aware that she is grieving and still having trouble, but Shoba makes no effort with him. Shoba’s mother is rude to Shukumar, blaming him for the baby’s stillbirth, and Shukumar takes it because he knows Shoba needs her mother at the time. Shoba is unfair to Shukumar she keeps her grief to herself. She doesn’t want to talk to Shukumar about it, doesn’t acknowledge that the baby’s death affected him to.

  1.    Examine a significant theme that arises from the story. What can we learn from it?

Grief and the effects it can have on individuals and relationships is a major theme of the story. The stillbirth of their child is a killing blow to their relationship, though it takes six months for Shoba to decide to leave him and work up the courage to tell Shukumar so. Both are depressed, and feel their grief in different ways. Shoba avoids the would be nursey, but Shukumar finds solace in it for example. They had different experience with their child; Shoba carried the baby that died at birth and Shukumar wasn’t there for that, but Shukumar held their child and guarded the secret that it was a boy to spare her the knowledge, until she hurts him and he throws it in her face. Grief and hurt can make people lash out. Over the days of the power outage, their relationship once again begins approaching normalcy, but it is after six months of feeling their grief and guilt separately and it isn’t enough to reconcile by the end. Grief doesn’t have a time limit, it doesn’t go away if you ignore it or wait it out.

  1.    What indications in the story prepare us for the eventual breakdown in the relationship?

Before the stillbirth, there are indications that their marriage isn’t completely solid. Shukumar rips a photo of a woman out of a magazine, and is disgusted with himself, but feels it is “the closest he has come to infidelity”. Shoba goes drinking with Gillian instead of spending time with his mother. For their third wedding anniversary, Shukumar is depressed when she gives him a sweater vest, when for their first she cooked a ten course meal. He lies about losing it, exchanging it for money to go and get drunk midday. These are not indications of a completely healthy relationship.

  1.    How does the stillbirth of their child affect the relationship between Shoba and Shukumar ?  Is the stillbirth in and of itself significant?

The stillbirth of their child completely destroys Shoba and Shukumar’s relationship. Shoba leaves before he gets up and comes home late, doesn’t speak to him when she is home, stops caring about things she once cared about, like their home and his degree. Shukumar whose perspective we see, is wracked with guilt, we learn because he wasn’t there for her, and because he learned their child’s gender, and held him. Shukumar avoids Shoba, not knowing how to face her. He hides in the would be nursey because the room pains her. Problems existed in their marriage before the stillbirth, but it was a fatal blow to them. After the stillbirth they were both depressed and grieving in different ways and could communicate with each other about it; Shoba likely feeling slightly resentful that he wasn’t there despite having pushed him to go to the conference, and Shukumar for the secret he harbors that their child was a boy.

  1.    Examine the significance of the title, “A Temporary Matter.” After reading the short story, what do you consider its meaning to be?

“A Temporary Matter” most immediately refers to the temporary maintenance of the electricity, the temporary inconvenience. This is of course the vehicle of the story, not the point of the story. The “temporary matter” can also refer to the four-day period in which Shoba builds up the courage to tell Shukumar the truth, and Shukumar attempting to rebuild their fractured relationship; a temporary mending period. It could refer to their relationship, their love, their marriage, as a temporary matter because it is coming to an end. The title could refer to their son’s life as well.

  1.     Discuss the relationship between Shoba and Shukumar in detail. How would you describe it before the death of their baby?

Shoba and Shukumar got married quickly, having met four years before the story and being married for three years. They didn’t know everything about each other, they had their secrets, but they loved each other. They went shopping and spent most of their time together. Shoba cooked elaborately. Shukumar took pictures of her all the time; she recorded when they first ate different meals together. Before the death of their baby they had a good relationship, even if Shoba did keep some of her money in a separate account, Shukumar respected it. After the death of their baby, their relationship nearly entirely disintegrates, they avoid each other nearly completely, from Shukumar’s perspective, because he is wracked with guilt and grief when he sees her. They relationship was fracturing before the stillbirth, as evidenced by Shukumar’s account of their third wedding anniversary, and his exchange of a sweater vest for drinking money. Shoba goes drinking with Gillian because she cannot stand to be with his mother. They didn’t have a perfect relationship before the stillbirth, but they loved each other.

  1. Why do Shoba and Shukumar fail to reconnect? Do they fail to reconnect?

At the end of A Temporary Matter, Shoba and Shukumar have not reconnected. Despite their attempts over the last four days, Shoba informs Shukamar of her intentions to move out, effectively dismantling all progress they have made. This failure to reconnect comes from never having spoken about the tragedy they faced – the stillbirth of their child. Shoba and Shukumar couldn’t face each other – Shukumar didn’t want to hurt her with the knowledge that their child was a boy until she hurts him in the end. Their guilt and grief separates them. There is always a chance for them to reconnect properly after the end of the story, because they have finally begun to communicate truthfully again, even if it hurts.

  1. What is a major idea that comes out of the themes of “A Temporary Matter?”

A major idea that comes out of “A Temporary Matter” is that marriages are hard, and require effort to maintain a good relationship and communication is a major role in that. Grief can be a major breaking point.


Top 5 Wednesday (Rewind): Favorite Underrated Books

Top Five Wednesday is a book meme that Lainey started, and is now hosted by Sam at Thoughts on Tomes.
If you want to join in checkout the Goodreads page!

January 25th: Favorite Underrated Books
–Give some love to those books that aren’t as widely talked about. Those hidden gems. Those books that maybe used to be popular but people have forgotten about and they still deserve some love.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Best Character Names

Top Ten Tuesdays are a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.
As always this list is in no particular order.

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

May 22: Best Character Names (make this as narrow/broad as you’d like)

These are just personal favorites.

Blue Sargent (The Raven Cycle)

Sherlock Holmes (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes)

Kaz (Six of Crows)

Bram Greenfield (Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda)

Magnus Bane (The Mortal Instruments)

Chaos Westfall (Throne of Glass)

Renesmee Carlie Cullen (Twilight)

America Singer (The Selection)

Carter Blume (Bad Girls Don’t Die)

Zach Goode (Gallagher Girls)