The Company Man

Ellen Goodman’s satirical essay The Company Man, analyzes the life of a man named Phil, “a workaholic”, a “perfect type A” that had almost literally “worked himself to death”, working everyday for hours, until one Saturday at 3:00 a.m., Phil dies quite ironically, on his only day off of the week. Goodman depicts Phil’s life as a typical “Company Man”, an industrialist that had worked too hard for nothing, revealing callous feelings toward Phil by using repetition and a business-like wording to create a neutral tone.

Constant repetition is on how Phil always overworked himself, how he was “overweight and nervous”. This not only emphasized the dullness of Phil’s life, but reflected on the reality of the day-to-day routine Phil lived. He subsisted in the same day, everyday, throughout his whole life. Spending the majority of his life at work, in fact “He worked himself to death…”. Practically going into his working place, wearing generally the same attire as the day before (except on Saturdays, when he wore a sports jacket to work because it was the weekend), he even ate that same “egg-salad sandwich” for lunch each day. Phil’s life was obviously not the most exciting, Goodman reveals this by constantly referencing these habits and lifestyle choices. Repetition on how “He worked himself to death, finally and precisely, at 3:00 a.m. Sunday morning” emphasizes his boring life, supporting Goodman’s disinterest in Phil.

In the description of Phil’s life Goodman keeps her text general, forming an emotionless and opinionless tone. Going through the “significant parts” of Phil’s life, Goodman strays away from going into depth or detail about Phil’s relationship with his family and work life. She explains a conversation held at the funeral: “…the sixty-year-old company president told the forty-eight-year-old widow that the fifty-one-year-old deceased had meant much…”, classifying people by their age and titles, not by their physical or personality features, not including exactly what they say, and giving the audience just enough to understand what it going on; the regular expression of so-called “sympathy” to the death of a widow’s dead husband.

Making the text seem as if it were lacking to expresses empathy toward Phil. Emotions are excluded from the text: “His “dearly beloved” eldest…”, the word “beloved” is not stated by Goodman, but quoted to make her emotions detached from the text, keeping her from making any personal connections with Phil, also showing her disregard in Phil’s life. General wording qualifies Phil’s life by reducing it to a memo, a basic write-up, a report, emotionless and straight to the focal points, just as Phil’s life was: broad, without detail, unattached.

The expression of the uninterest Ellen Goodman experiences in Phil’s monotonous life is displayed through the consistent citing of the “boring things” that goes on in the life of Phil, and the generality of the text which created a tone that was similar to a business memo, having the effect of reducing Phil’s life to a report. The sad reality of the “Company Man” that worked too hard for nothing ends with the same way he lived his life, tiresome and irrelevant.

What do you think?

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