Citizen: An American Lyric

Citizen: An American Lyric Summary and Analysis of Section IV


Section IV begins not with a short interaction, but rather with a sigh. When one sighs, the world says, "stop that" (53), yet you sigh again. Whereas moaning encourages laughter, sighing encourages anger. The sigh allows breathing, which allows living. But the sigh indicates an ache, which is not that of a free being; therefore you liken yourself to a "ruminant animal" (54).

There is a conflict between the person created of memory and the person created of feeling. You'd like to wear sunglasses in the house to "soothe sight, soothe you" (55).

Eventually the sighing leaves, but the aches remain. You cannot think of what to do, so you turn on a soundless tennis match on the TV.

The narrator focuses on the details of exchange, continually asking who did what and when it happened and did that person really say that and did I just say that and finally, did I just sigh?

Memory contains within it nostalgia, a double-edged sword. Without it, we are left with "the ball going back and forth" (58). Someone, upset, walks up to the umpire. Suddenly you want to turn the sound back on. The player does not get over this incident, and begins to put the balls into the net.

A mantra encapsulates the page: "Feel good. Feel better. Move forward. Let it go. Come on." (60).


The shortest section in Citizen is also perhaps the most abstract. It focuses on themes of the bodily senses, such as vision, hearing, and even pain. At the beginning of Section I, the narrator mentions that she had turned all of her technology off, but now, she seems to be okay with bringing these devices partially back into her life. The TV is muted. It's just a taste, but when she notices the injustice playing out onscreen, she wants to hear it.

Technology, though not fully explored in this book, is a big part of the lives of the modern subjects' lives in Citizen. It is one of the many ways that this book is a necessary sequel to de Tocqueville's observations on the apparatus of democracy in America.