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The Company Man
By Ellen Goodman
He worked himself to death, finally and precisely, at 3:00 A.M. Sunday morning. The obituary didn’t say that, of course. It said that he died from a coronary thrombosis, but everyone among his friends and acquaintances knew it instantly. He was a perfect type A, a workaholic, a classic, they said to each other and shook their heads and thought for five or ten minutes about the way they lived.
This man who worked himself to death finally and precisely at 3:00 A.M. Sunday morning -on his day off- was fifty-one years old and a vice president. He was, however, one of six vice presidents, and one of three who might conceivably-if the president retired or died soon enough- have moved to the top spot. Phil knew that.
He worked six days a week, five of them until eight or nine at night, during a time when his own company had begun the four-day week for everyone but the executives. He worked like the Important People. He had no outside “extracurricular interest,” unless, of course, you think about a monthly golf game that way. To Phil, it was work. He always ate egg salad sandwiches at his desk. He was, of course, overweight, by 20 or 25 pounds. He thought it was okay, though, because he didn’t smoke.
On Saturdays, Phil wore a sports jacket to the office instead of a suit and tie because it was the weekend. He had a lot of people working for him, maybe sixty, and most of them liked him most of the time. Three of them will be seriously considered for his job. The obituary didn’t mention that.
But it did list his “survivors” quite accurately. He is survived by his wife, Helen, forty-eight years old, a good woman of no particular marketable skills, who worked in an office before marrying and mothering. She had, according to her daughter, given up trying to compete with his work years ago, when the children were small. A company friend said, “I know how much you will miss him.” And she answered, “I already have.”
Missing him all these years, she must have given up part of herself which had cared too much for the man. She would be “well taken care of.”
His “dearly beloved” eldest of the “dearly beloved” children is a hard-working executive in a manufacturing firm down South. In the day and a half before the funeral, he went around the neighborhood researching his father, asking the neighbors what he was like. They were embarrassed.
His second child is a girl, who is twenty-four and newly married. She lives near her mother and they are close, but whenever she was alone with her father, in a car driving somewhere, they had nothing to say to each other.
The youngest is twenty, a boy, a high school graduate who has spent the last couple of years, like a lot of his friends, doing enough odd jobs to stay in food and grass. He was the one who tried to grab at his father and tried to mean enough to him to keep the man at home. He was his father’s favorite. Over the last two years, Phil stayed up nights worrying about the boy. The boy once said, “My father and I only board here.”
At the funeral, the sixty-year-old company president told the forty-eight-year-old widow that the fifty-one-year-old deceased has meant much to the company and would be missed and would be hard to replace. The widow didn’t look him in the eye. She was afraid he would read her bitterness and, after all, she would need him to straighten out the finances-the stock options and all that.
Phil was overweight and nervous and worked too hard. If he wasn’t at the office, he was worried about it. Phil was a type A, a heart attack natural. You could have picked him out in a minute from a lineup. So when he finally worked himself to death, at precisely 3:00 A.M. Sunday morning, no one was surprised.
By 5:00 P.M. the afternoon of the funeral, the company president had begun, discreetly of course, with care and taste, to make inquiries about his replacement, one of three men. He asked around: “Who’s been working the hardest?”
For essay two you will read a short essay (I will send the essay in the next post.) and then write a critical analysis identifying and giving examples of the writer’s primary purpose and pattern Do not select the Literary purpose because this essay is not primarily a work of art. Support your claims with specific examples from the writer’s work. You may use direct quotations, but use quotation marks carefully. This essay is not a research essay. Do not use source material to support your assertions. Let this essay be in your own words. The essay must cover the following requirements, but do not use headings or numbers when you write. Be sure to indent for a new paragraph and double space if possible.
You must have an introduction that identifies the author and the title of the essay. The introduction must also contain a summary of the content of the in your own words. Try to have no more than ten sentences for the summary (no direct quotations here). In the final sentence of the introduction identify the main purpose and primary method of organization (pattern).
You must have at least one paragraph in which you identify and explain the writer’s main purpose using the characteristics from “Purposes and Patterns.” As much as possible, combine any quotation with an explanation in your own words. Avoid quotations that stand alone and don’t quote excessively.
You must have at least one paragraph in which you state the primary pattern the writer used to organize the essay. Again explain how you came to your conclusion using examples from the essay and the characteristics from the text.
Finally, you will need a conclusion that is an evaluation of the essay. Was it successful? Was the author’s choice of purpose and pattern effective? Did you like the essay? Why or why not?
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