As indicated by “Self-Reliance,” an essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members.” Emerson points out that as society works to rid men of their manhood, mans sense of distinctiveness. In isolation, every man has the freedom to think on his own; therefore, being an individual person. Adhering to the norms of society destroyed their freedom; thus, causing a faceless society of conformists. Consequently, an assortment of contemporary British poets cogitated on the fact that society became increasingly lackluster as the demise of distinctiveness among its citizens increased due to conformity.Order now
By losing the individuality that one holds, one is deprived of his identity. The Unknown Citizen, by W.H. Auden, exemplified the notion that blind agreement of the ethics of society brings about identity loss. The poem indicated that He, the nameless citizen, had conformed to the values and beliefs of his society, For in everything he did he served the Greater Community (Auden 883). By abiding by the morals of his society, He could no longer be a libertine and entrust in his own values. He must curb his mind to the ideals of the Greater Community and nobody will be capable of discriminating him from the other members of the population. Individuality is a distinguishing characteristic of humans and without this sense of uniqueness, one is another person in the crowd. T.S. Elliot applied this concept best in The Hollow Men, where he described the men as, Shape without form, shade without color, (Elliot 707). Eliot described the conformed men through a personification of Shape. Any shape is visible, yet it lack the qualities, color and form, that make it unique. The men are physically present, yet they lack the individual thought that made each one distinct. The men had lost their human traits, had developed into a monotonous society, and lacked the facility to be a detached person.
As people diverged from seclusion and adhered to conventionalism, an intensified society of sightless nomads materialized. Characterized as nomads, the conformed wander aimlessly, lacking their own beliefs as guidance. This lack of self-guidance rendered society monotonous creating a habitat similar to an old allegory, monkey see, monkey do. This scheme is evident in T.S. Elliots work, The Hollow Men. He portrays the citizens as transparent beings that possess no distinctive characteristics. He states,
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas! (Elliot 707).
The men in this poem depict the ever-present nomads in society. They have no personal feeling or thought; society stuffs them with instructions on how to act. These men move as a crowd and follow each others actions, apparently leaning together.
In a world more methodical, a lack of free will existed in all aspects of culture, creating a sense of despotic rule over the people. In the Unknown Citizen, He does what the society tells him to do. He has no choice, in order for society to accept him, he must adhere to norms. Auden recalls When there was peace, he was for peace; when there was war, he went. (Auden 883). Chances are that He did not always support the societys stance on certain issues. He may not have supported the war, yet it is human nature to strive for acceptance. As one endeavors for acceptance, one may not like what society imposes, but one must reluctantly accept it in order to maintain a citizenship of society. Even the little things that society necessitates are unknowingly accepted. For example, He listened to society on advice on how to plan his family,
He was married and added five children to the population,
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his generation, (Auden 883)
It is up to nobody but oneself to decide how many children you have, yet the geneticist decided the optimum number and the citizens unsightedly follow the counsel. Once again, Auden had shown that citizens would do anything for acceptance.