The Tragic Life of Phil in Ellen Goodman's Essay

Categories: Company

Ellen Goodman's satirical essay The Company Male, examines the life of a male called Phil, "a workaholic", a "ideal type A" that had almost literally "worked himself to death", working everyday for hours, until one Saturday at 3:00 a.m., Phil dies rather ironically, on his only day off of the week. Goodman illustrates Phil's life as a typical "Business Man", an industrialist that had worked too difficult for nothing, revealing callous feelings towards Phil by utilizing repetition and a business-like wording to develop a neutral tone.

Continuous repetition is on how Phil always strained himself, how he was "obese and worried". This not just highlighted the dullness of Phil's life, however showed on the truth of the day-to-day regular Phil lived. He survived in the same day, daily, throughout his entire life. Investing most of his life at work, in fact "He worked himself to death ...". Virtually going into his working place, wearing typically the same clothes as the day prior to (except on Saturdays, when he used a sports coat to work because it was the weekend), he even consumed that exact same "egg-salad sandwich" for lunch each day.

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Phil's life was clearly not the most exciting, Goodman exposes this by continuously referencing these habits and lifestyle options. Repetition on how "He worked himself to death, finally and precisely, at 3:00 a.m. Sunday morning" stresses his uninteresting 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.

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Going through the "substantial parts" of Phil's life, Goodman wanders off far from entering into depth or detail about Phil's relationship with his household and work life. She explains a discussion held at the funeral: "... the sixty-year-old business president informed the forty-eight-year-old widow that the fifty-one-year-old deceased had meant much ...", classifying individuals by their age and titles, not by their physical or personality functions, not including exactly what they state, and providing the audience simply enough to understand what it going on; the routine expression of so-called "compassion" to the death of a widow's dead hubby.

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.

Updated: Mar 22, 2023
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The Tragic Life of Phil in Ellen Goodman's Essay. (2016, Mar 24). Retrieved from

The Tragic Life of Phil in Ellen Goodman's Essay essay
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