“The unknown Citizen” by W.H.Auden

Wysten Hugh Auden was an Anglo-American poet, one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. His works are famous for the combination of traditional forms and styles with new forms that the writer used so masterly. Irony and laconics are characteristic of many of his poems. The central themes W.H. Auden touched upon in his poetry are love, morals, religion, politics, the relationship between human beings and the world of nature. The poem “The Unknown Citizen” is one of his outstanding works. It was published in 1939, after Auden had moved to America and became its citizen. This poem is an epitaph honoring a deceased person whose name is unidentified. He has a combination of letters and numbers instead of the name and is described from the viewpoint of different organizations such as “the Bureau of Statistics”, “Fudge Motors Inc.”, “Social Psychology workers”, “the Press” health-care service, eugenics and some others. The portrait described is a portrait of an average citizen who lived an exemplary life and “in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was saint, for everything he did he served for Greater Community”. The poem ends with the following lines “Was he free? Was he happy?”

However, the question is dismissed as the statistical methods that are used to describe his life consider it “absurd”. They don’t have means to understand the actual meaning of the notions of freedom and happiness that is far from any accepted standards and rules and is determined by the heart of each individual person. The author uses satire to underline his strong disapproval of the modern state’s relationship with its citizens. By describing a citizen’s life through the eyes of different government organizations, by identifying the man by arbitrary numbers and letters, by dismissing any consideration of the vital questions about person’s happiness and freedom Auden attacks modern bureaucratic system and standardization that is done at the expense of person’s individualism.

“On Aging” by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou is one of the most outstanding African American female writers. Her writings include variety of literary forms such as poetry, drama, autobiographies. Following the example of her independent and strong-willed grandmother, Maya Angelou has got strong personality. She was heralded as one of the first African American women who were able to discuss their personal life and thoughts publicly. This can be found in most of her prose as well as in her poetry. Though some critics have argued that Angelou’s poetry is inferior to her prose and that it has been often praised more for its content than for its poetic virtue, this writer was nominated for Pulitzer Prize for her book of poetry and on the whole is one of the most honored writers of her generation.  Her poem “On Aging” entered “The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou, 1994.  The topic of the poem is the idea of aging. The author conveys her feelings about the experience of aging. She talks about the effects that aging has on the body: “when my bones are stiff and aching ”¦”, “a little less hair ”¦”, and stresses that personality remains the same despite physical changes: “I’m the same person I was back then”. The writer uses humor by comparison to illustrate aging: “when you see me sitting quietly like a sack left on the self”. She may have done it to smooth the pity and inevitable influence of aging on bodies of all humans. She remains positive and optimistic regardless of body changes. Nevertheless her viewpoint on this topic is clear. An elderly person doesn’t need sympathy and pity. Respect and understanding are appreciated in fact. Maya Angelou intended to show that the human spirit never grows old. An elderly human always values every moment he or she breathes and is eager to enjoy life and the world around despite any unpleasant physical changes years bring to. These words from the poem prove it: “but aren’t I lucky I can still breathe in”. Often when Angelou speaks in the first-person singular in her works, she talks about the first-person plural.

When readers hear her poetry they listen to themselves. Thus, Angelou’s poem “On Aging” conveys not only her own experience of aging; it depicts general conception of it that can be shared by many people as there is much wisdom in her words.

Similar ideas can be found in the essay “The Death of the Moth” by Virginia Woolf.  She compares the life of the moth with the true nature of human life. She shows a tiny creature that once it begins to loose its energy, it continues to fade until it finally dies. The author implies that one should live to the full potential, with full vitality up to the end.

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