Analysis of Rhetorical Strategies
in “The Company Man”
In “The Company Man” by Ellen Goodman, throughout the passage Goodman illustrates her feelings of distaste and anger toward Phil, as he in her mind represents Corporate America: routine, indifferent, almost robotic. Goodman uses numerous rhetorical strategies to convey her attitude toward Phil, including tone, repetition, the use of statistics, sarcasm, anecdotes, differing syntax, and irony.
From the beginning, Goodman creates a very impersonal tone, letting characters remain nameless and unimportant, identifying them primarily by their age – “Phil, fifty-one years old…Helen, forty-eight years old…”. This mirrors the corporate mindset that everyone has an expiration date, and everyone is replaceable. In addition, Goodman uses repetition of certain phrases in the passage, like Phil’s death: “He worked himself to death, finally and precisely, at 3:00a.m. Sunday morning.” This illustrates her frustration toward Phil for his over-dedication to work, while at the same time using numbers and statistics to show his unimportance to the company. Numbers are constantly used by Goodman to emphasize the fact that Phil was nothing but a statistic: “fifty-one years old…worked six days a week, five of them until eight or nine at night…overweight by 20 or 25 pounds.” Goodman also shows this through her use of sarcasm; “He worked like the Important People.”, she stated, clearly portraying through the use of capitalization of “Important People” that Phil was not viewed as important, but rather insignificant.
Later, the author uses anecdotes of Phil’s family and details about his personal life to show how much time he spent at work and how it affected his family, furthering Goodman’s resentment toward Phil and what he represents. “A company friend said, ‘I know how much you will miss him.’ And she [Phil’s wife] answered, ‘I already have.’” Because Phil was rarely at home and spent most of his time at the...
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