The gingerbread man | Teen Ink

The gingerbread man

January 20, 2013
By Armor GOLD, Windsor, Connecticut
Armor GOLD, Windsor, Connecticut
14 articles 0 photos 7 comments

Human nature frequently drives us to seek refuge in normality, but we should never allow our desire to belong to overpower our true identities. In W. H. Auden’s “The Unknown Citizen”, we read of he, the ideal citizen, a flawless cookie cutter man. As we unravel more of the poem, we comprehend the entire situation. The poem presents to us a society of the dominating and dominated, the government and the people. Right away we can discern that the speaker embodies the government, while he represents the people. With that we also see how the people are rewarded for becoming cookie cutter people, for he gets a monument for being average, unnoticeable, and bland. If normality can sometimes be a safe haven, he takes it to an extreme; no longer considered as a person, but an insignificant number doing only as told. The government gave him the chains, but he enslaved himself by conforming to their ideals. However, those chains were crafted in such a way that they were unnoticeable to him, much to the benefit of the government. The speaker suggests that he developed his twisted identity in his youth, both at home and at school: “And our teachers report he never interfered with their education” , (line 27). That line alone shows that he and the other members of his community were taught this submissive perspective at school. It seems that his teachers also strove to extirpate any form of individuality, creativity, or imagination. But, this encouragement of eradicating his personality did not only come from school, it also came from his parents who saw no problem in his education, and made no opposition toward it. They did not see how unjust their son’s education was, since it was their own, which exposes yet another way conformity was spread and enforced in their society. And looking down on this ironically, the poet sees two people from the same community, the same society, who are so very different. The speaker sets the rules, provides the mold and chains for he. And he, pushes himself through the mold, chaining himself with the speaker’s corrupted standards. He is truly a cookie cutter person in all forms of the word. The ginger bread man is also technically a cookie cutter man, yet in the modern sense of the word he is truly the opposite. The ginger bread man becomes alive against all odds when he is baked, then disobeys everyone while running away. He ,in “The Unknown Citizen”, on the other hand, is such a conformist that he would have resisted jumping out of that oven, and if he had, he would have stopped immediately if suggested. At least the ginger bread man was driven by his individuality and personality, while the unknown citizen had neither of those; he barely had a number,

The author's comments:
To conform or not to conform, that is the question.

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