Authored by Alison Griffin

Business Life in Fiction

Since the emergence of writing, humanity has been using it to make records regarding the significant occasions, personalities or phenomena that in a certain way influence the life and history of the society. Both historical and fictional writing has been employed to portray each epoch and people living in it. While historical records are infused with facts and figures, literary works are more focused on giving the descriptive and evaluative account of the development of the society. The latter represent important source of evidence as they reflect the ideas and feelings of people living in certain time and under certain circumstances. One of the bright examples of literary masterpieces that provide historical evidence about the business life in the United States is the novel entitled The Revolutionary Road. Written by Richard Yates, it provides the insight into family and business life of young people against the background of economic and social changes that occurred in the 1950s. Yates’ novel refers to the realities of life in America at the beginning of the second half of the XX century. From the historical perspective, these were the times of rapid market growth, decrease in unemployment rate and general boost of economy. These were the days of honoring materialism and searching for personal comfort rather than common well-being. People were obsessed with the idea of conformity and were struggling to live the life that was believed to be perfect no matter how strong it might differ from personal desires and dreams. The central characters of the novel are typical representatives of the prosperous middle class. Frank and April Wheeler have been married for seven years; they have two lovely children and now seem to start the calm and secure period of their life as a family. The Wheelers move to the suburb area known as “Revolutionary Hill” - the most prestigious place to live in. Frank is working in the city, while April is a housewife responsible for all the work in the house. At first sight, they seem to be an ideal manifestation of marital life; however, as the narrative develops, the characters go through various kinds of crisis, disillusionment and despair posed by the epoch they live in. The faith of this couple represents the general picture of life in the United States and refers to various changes and new tendencies in social and economic life that possess both historical and aesthetic value sample analysis papers The 1950s were the times when business life was headed by newly established big corporations whose owners were carrying simply about the profit, and so did the employees. Yates gives brilliant description of the typical business structure referred to as a perfect place to work at: …big, swollen old corporation that’s been bumbling along making money in its sleep for a hundred years, where they have to hire eight guys for every one job because none of them can be expected to care about whatever boring thing it is they’re supposed to be doing. The route that an average businessman took to his occupation was not the one guided by the heart. It was the desire to have enough money to support the family, to buy a better house and car that controlled people occupied in business. It seems that no one actually cared about what they were actually doing – it was simply necessary to be occupied with something. Frank claims that he would like to work for that kind of company as long as he is ready to sell his skills for the appropriate compensation and does not want to be emotionally involved in his job. Frank Wheeler is a typical businessman of the fifties with typical job and typical way of life. He is working in sales promotion department in the company called Knox – one of thousands companies that are distributing some technological devices. It is a big corporation with smaller departments in other cities where nobody works very hard except old Bandy, the manager. Frank is one of hundreds thousands employees who every morning dress their suits, put on the hat and leave their beautiful white homes with spacious backyards and flourishing gardens exactly at the same time. He, as many other men, takes a car and then a train to get to his company, sits at his desk and, without any rush, excitement or any possible emotional engagement, executes his duties. He goes for a lunch with his colleagues; they drink some martini and go back to the same boring routine. When the working day is over, he joins the “slow promenade of office people” to return back home where his lovely wife and children are waiting for him. It is obvious that Frank does not get any pleasure from doing his job except the one connected with financial reward. The same kind of attitude is actually typical of all his colleagues and friends and is considered to be normal. Describing secured life of the middle class, the novel refers to the depiction of the other side of the American Dream. A few decades ago, most people were as struggling to find calm and peaceful life through the stable position in a big corporation. Thus, Frank exemplifies the product of disappointment in the American Dream. Being young and ambitious, he is dreaming about going to Paris and finding his true devotion. He believes that everything is possible and wants to feel the taste of real life. It is the idea of moving to Paris that manifests against the background of the boring and mundane life in the fifties. However, Yates seems to mock the idealistic suburbia life as the key point of achieving the American Dream. What once was considered a blessing now became a cage chained by the tendencies and pressures of society that transformed a brave and passionate young man into stereotypical businessman. The most striking tendency of the 1950s depicted in the book is related to the permanent pressure of society that made people follow the commonly accepted idea of comfort. People were selling themselves to the big corporations in order to earn enough money to purchase the imaginative status of conformity. The desire to live the life of the majority was the major driving force. It is obvious that the Wheelers move to suburbs because it is believed to be the most comfortable place for normal family life. The family moves here because April is pregnant and the suburbs are considered to be the most favorable place to raise children. However, living in the big house is not cheap, and Frank cannot allow himself to spend days and weeks on self-exploration. He is expected to be the breadwinner and is responsible for the comfortable life of his family. It is again the desire of conformity that forces him to accept the job he detested once and to spend years doing things he does not want to do. In fact, this desire guided the representatives of business world and laid the foundations of the business itself. The author depicts two versions of Frank: the one typical of his century and the other one that represents an enthusiastic and inspired young man. Both versions help readers to compare the two types of employees and notice the clear drawbacks of the business society of the fifties. Most part of the novel, Frank is depressed, and his job is nothing but the additional burden lying on his shoulders. He does not enjoy doing his job, does not hurry up to come earlier from the lunch or work some extra hours. Lack of enthusiasm and devotion was a typical problem of the business world in those times. Hiring people who were not passionate about their job resulted in low work productivity and work quality. Great sums of money were spent to keep the number of employees sufficient for effective functioning of the company. However, Yates depicts the other type of employee – inspired and satisfied. Having decided to move to France, Frank turns into another man for a while. Becoming “Demon of Energy”, he cleans all the papers that have been piled on his table during many years. Moreover, it is the time when his mind has generated the brilliant idea regarding the issue with Toledo that is the main ground for his further promotion. The two images acting as the prototypes of the employees prove the creativity and effectiveness of the work of enthusiastic and inspired people and emphasize the significant drawback of the economics that stands on the opposite type of employees. The novel provides information about gender ratio at the working place and general picture of the female’s role in the American society in general and in the world of business in particular. In the 1950s, it was commonly accepted that men were making money and women were taking care of the house and children. The very idea that a wife would earn the living and husband would spend some time without a job evoked mocking and contempt. When the Wheelers tell their friends that after moving to France April is going to start working so that Frank will have some time to find an occupation he would really like to do, their idea becomes a real shock for their friends, the Campbells. Later the same evening, Shep Campbell calls this “immature deal” and says that no man in the common sense would allow his wife to be responsible for financial support of the family. In addition, although the novel depicts women working for Knox, it clearly proves the spread and commonness of the idea that women were supposed to stay home and take care of the household. The females in business were represented by the secretaries or workers that occupied any similar position that did not require significant skills or strong educational background. They were not treated seriously and obviously were not admitted to the possibility to take any type of positions. To conclude, the novel entitled The Revolutionary Road represents the vivid picture of social and economic life of the United States in the 1950s. It depicts the life of a young couple in the world imbued with the ideals of complete conformity and comfort where men earn money and women take care of the house and children. These were the major tendencies that determined not only personal but also business life of the society. The economics of the fifties was grounded on big companies full of employees who hated their job but could not leave it simply because this was unacceptable to be a man and have no job. Despite the rapid development of the business in general, it still lacked productivity as the employees were not very ardent workers. The job was treated solely as the source of profit and no one could allow oneself to ask for something more. The country was suffocating from detested routine, continuous boredom and fake happiness, but everyone silently continued to play their roles.

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