A Story of my Reading

The title of a poem is usually where I start to build a basic interaction. When I encountered with “The Unknown Citizen”, I tried to make a reasonable guess about what the poem will say. The first hunch was that it tended to introduce a person and relate to a civilized society.With a supposition of the theme of the poem in mind, I read the poem through the first time. It was unexpected to have so much information while I was wondering how the citizen was“unknown”. Though there were some phrases unapprehended, I noticed that the poem had talked about a person from different and important aspects as a social member. After all these things that I have known about this “citizen”, I found the thing “unknown” at the end of the poem which corresponding to the title and apparently was the key to the understanding of the poem. The “citizen” in the poem appeared to be a perfect “citizen” rather than a real person. My first reading had proved my guess, but I felt that my interpretation still stayed on a superficial level. I needed more information and details to lead me to a deeper understanding.

During the second reading, I paid more attention to details and implied meanings while trying to answer questions on the work that were raised on my first reading. I examined those authorities mentioned in the poem and their importance for being chosen by the poet with my own experience and background knowledge about how the society worked. It seemed that this “citizen” was really a “saint in the modern sense” fulfilling every requirement of the society. He was obedient, hard-working and flowed with the tide. However, he was normal and average. I learned how the authorities and mechanisms think about him but nothing about the citizen himself: his thoughts, his feelings or his opinions on those authorities. I then further interpreted the information and found this citizen described as a record rather than an individual with distinctive characters. The comprehension of the known part of the citizen is essential to the understanding of the “unknown” part. I felt that I had been closer to the core of the work.

Based on what I had learned previously, I read the poem the third time straightening my thinking and trying to get a conclusion. The focus of the poem should be the contradiction of the known and unknown. On the first read, I had fixed the theme of the poem. Then I analyzed details for evidence proving my supposition and answers to questions remained before while reading the work the second time. So I was able to get a better comprehension of the work and complete my understanding. The poem appeared to describe a citizen with adequate information but failed in providing basic information to identify this citizen such as a name. The poet criticized the society treating a person as data and showing no respect to citizens with a sarcastic tone.


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