“The Company Man”: An American Dream or Nightmare? In the satirical essay “The Company Man,” Ellen Goodman criticizes the lifestyle of Phil, dehumanizing the “American Dream” through the use of contradictory repetition, pathetic persuasive techniques, and sterile diction. Using repetition Goodman emphasizes the importance of Phil dying on a Sunday at three in the morning because he was still worrying about work, even on the one time and day he was off. This is where she points out that work killed him.
This highlights that he died striving for the “American Dream. ” He was so focused on gaining everything that he thought would make him happy; he never got to experience his own life. Goodman stresses this point because it accentuates that the “American Dream” might be an “American Nightmare. ” Through the use of pathos Goodman shows the cost of a life striving for the “American Dream”; no relationships with his family or anybody for that matter except for with his work. She goes on to emphasize this through describing his family, a typical suburbia family.
The oldest was just like him, a workaholic Type A person, the middle child was a girl and just like her mother, finally the youngest child was a troublemaker and was always trying to gain dad’s attention. At this point she puts an emphasis on how after he died the oldest had nothing to say about his father, so he went around asking neighbors about him, at this point she shows that he had no relation with them either. This draws attention to the fact that he was close to nobody and the cause was him striving for an “American Dream” that might not be as appealing as what it is cracked up to be.
Goodman uses diction to dehumanize people and make them seem more like statistics than people; in an essence bringing a generic quality to the people of this story, making them easier to replace. She uses ages to describe the deceased, his wife, and the company president to make them easy to imagine, and even easier to replace in society. When using the numbers she brings out the underlying problem, that even when Phil had worked so hard, he was extremely easy to substitute with someone just like him.
He was generic and with no real personality he had no influence on anybody, not even his family. Goodman also uses diction when she uses words like survivors, instead of survived by. It makes it seem as if his family survived him and his life. Also, when she uses the words dearly beloved to describe his oldest son that had no real relationship with his father, she brings to light the irony that even his own son had no feelings about him dying, because he didn’t know him.
All of these examples aim the blame at this “American Dream” that every “Company Man” strove towards in his life and the consequences the family and that person could face, even to the extreme that she went to, death. All in all, Ellen Goodman employs “The Company Man” to show the consequences of living a life focused on attaining the “American Dream. ” She also hints at the harmfulness of stress, and how it can lead to an early death. Ultimately her satire brings up a major question: Is the “American Dream” really a dream, or a nightmare?