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W. H. Auden's ‘Unknown Citizen’ and James McTeigue’s ‘V for Vendetta’: Comparative Analysis

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The two related texts that I have chosen includes, W.H Auden’s, ‘Unknown Citizen’ and James Mcteigue’s ‘V for Vendetta’. McTeigue’s representation of an oppressed society effectively resonates with George Orwell’s ‘1984’, hence my decision to choose it as my prominent text. Through its exhibition of characterisation of protagonists, their appeals for self expression, and the strive for the collective individuality, reflects the environment Winston lives in. ‘V for Vendetta’ succinctly conveys these ideas through skillful use of setting and character interaction and highlights the inconsistencies, anomalies and paradoxes within human behaviour. The three texts interrelate with one another through the connection of human experiences and relations I have made when being challenged to the ideologies of individualism and totalitarianism.

McTeigue’s ‘V for Vendetta’ film purposefully displays vivid relational ideas and experiences that resembles Orwell’s ‘1984’. V, the protagonist, is a direct representation of Winston as their motives include that of overthrowing an oppressive government who is in control. In ‘1984’, Smith impulsively iterates and writes in his journal. This exemplifies his internal conflict in which he chooses to conceal as a result of fear, exerted upon himself through the presence of Big Brother. The fear of death or torture can be seen in both texts as the society is filled with this manipulation and use of twisted mind-control. Because of Winston’s proclivity to internally oppose the power, this creates anticipation towards the audience as to wonder about the possibilities are if he continues to commit thoughtcrime. Winston constantly thinks rebellious thoughts, “they’ll shoot me I don’t care, they’ll shoot me in the back of the neck I don’t care,” as well as repeating the words, “Down with Big Brother”, unveils his hatred against this totalitarian society. The insightful use of anadiplosis conveyed through, “I don’t care” represents his misery and despair within the setting of a totalitarian regime. I had chosen ‘V for Vendetta’ as my favoured text for the extended response due to its higher relations I could make with ‘1984’ and similarities seen in the film and novel.

Within ‘V for Vendetta’, the protagonist, V is represented as the forefront who represents the strive for freedom and the embodiment of rebellion. The mask symbolises individuality in a sense that V is differentiable from the indoctrinated crowd. Because of the salience associated with the symbolism of the mask the effective representation of V, it engages the reader to involve themselves in his personal motives which provides particular effect amongst his encounters with other characters. “Behind this mask, there is more than just flesh. Beneath this mask, there is an idea… and ideas are bulletproof.”, represents ideologies and that people may have thought of but by being covered by a facade on igniting that change. As humans, we experience fear of what people will say and act upon if we open our mouths. We fear the opinions of others when we should be reflecting on the benefit of ourselves. The ideas we think of can help change the perception of a better society. “People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.” The strategic tonality and delivery from V, exerts his modality and confidence of his perspective signifying an act of defiance against the totalitarian power. Through the ideas of the mask creates deep understanding and connection towards those who have similar ideas.

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‘The Unknown Citizen” written by Auden displays the story as bureaucratic and depressing. It takes similarities from Orwell’s ‘1984’ but lacks a sense of empathy. The man in the poem can be described as a reference to a number rather than a human creating the dehumanised nature. Although it displays similar traits to Winston Smith in ’1984’, it lacks the changing effect Winston had when he started writing in his journal. While reading the poem I was anxious and confused about the emotion the character was portraying, “Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd,” is asked by the poet and leaves a wonder of thought and uncertainty. Having not known the situation of the man’s state is an idea of hiding the truth and morality of one’s identity. The use of rhetorical questions advocates the wondering pathways set towards the audience. However, in 1984, we are given the point of view of Smith and told in third person but through the perception of an individual narrator. We see the use of the third person to develop a relationship between the narrative and Winston, the main character. “It might be two or three hours ago that they had brought him here. The dull pain in his belly never went away, but sometimes it grew better and sometimes worse, and his thoughts expanded or contracted accordingly.” creates a visual imagery of the torture that he is going through compared to the uncertainty of emotions that is lacked within “The Unknown Citizen”. It questions me about how the character experiences his daily actions. “Our Social Psychology workers found that he was popular with his mates and liked a drink” through this we don’t directly create a connection with the character instead get told a fact. My experience with the emotional support from the poem is insufficient although the human behaviours of “drinking with his mates” creates a connection of developing relationships with other people.

In Auden’s poem, the character of the unknown man is similar to Winston in ‘1984’ where they are employed as people who work for the government and creates a relation to both characters. The effect of creating character build up and development allows any human relations and similarities that they can relate to. In “The Unknown Citizen” it displays a character description of what the man does on daily activities but is written in a bland but well structured format.

The use of rhyme creates rhythm and flow for the reader as engagement and a beat of interest. However, Auden uses lengthy lines in the poem and can cause disengagement for the reader. But through the use of the long lines can create a comedic sense, “One against whom there was no official complaint,…. that, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned world, he was a saint,” the use of the rhyming couplets can bring harmony, resonance and grace swayed throughout the poem and brings connection to the plot of the story. In ‘1984’ it’s not pursued as poetic and rather as a three act structure which involves the conflicts at the beginning and resolution by the end of the story. The three act structure allows the audience to experience Winston’s journey of dehumanisation, creating that empathy and tension we can gain and parallel from ‘Act 1’, ‘Act 2’ and ‘Act 3’. ‘V for Vendetta’ is visualised through a three act structure and follows that ploy structure of ‘1984’ which creates a better link and desire for myself to choose that text.

The two texts chosen, the film ‘V for Vendetta’ directed by James McTeigue and W.H Auden’s poem ‘The Unknown Citizen’ communicated the ideas that are seen in George Orwell’s dystopia world in the ‘1984’ novel. Through the ideas of individual thought and one’s well being on security and self reflection, the film ‘V for Vendetta’ had displayed an array of ideologies that one can relate and exhibit. Though the text I chose to reject, ‘The Unknown Citizen’ displayed similar themes, it lacked the connection of the character to build that human relation emotion I felt compared to the film. The three texts create a succinct and powerful message on ideologies of individuals within the society and the human experience of challenging one’s perception on it.

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W. H. Auden’s ‘Unknown Citizen’ and James McTeigue’s ‘V for Vendetta’: Comparative Analysis. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 5, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/w-h-audens-unknown-citizen-and-james-mcteigues-v-for-vendetta-comparative-analysis/
“W. H. Auden’s ‘Unknown Citizen’ and James McTeigue’s ‘V for Vendetta’: Comparative Analysis.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/w-h-audens-unknown-citizen-and-james-mcteigues-v-for-vendetta-comparative-analysis/
W. H. Auden’s ‘Unknown Citizen’ and James McTeigue’s ‘V for Vendetta’: Comparative Analysis. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/w-h-audens-unknown-citizen-and-james-mcteigues-v-for-vendetta-comparative-analysis/> [Accessed 5 Feb. 2023].
W. H. Auden’s ‘Unknown Citizen’ and James McTeigue’s ‘V for Vendetta’: Comparative Analysis [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2023 Feb 5]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/w-h-audens-unknown-citizen-and-james-mcteigues-v-for-vendetta-comparative-analysis/
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