From Poor Richard To the Man in the Gray Flannel Suit: A Literary Portrait of the Businessman

by Robert Falk



The article presents a literary portrait of a businessmen characterized as Poor Richard in the U.S. Literature often influences the way men behave by giving them a lasting picture of themselves. Life imitates art. The author has arbitrarily selected five perspectives, roughly corresponding to stages of American life, in which one may discover changing attitudes of society towards the man of affairs. First, the hero-worshipping tradition of the businessman and the later counter-image which has grown up around him. Next, the Yankee Peddler, Horatio Alger, and the businessman as representative Americans. Third, the strong man of the Social Darwinists. Fourth, Babbitt, AntiBabbitt and the Marxian coloration. Finally, the Organization Man in a gray flannel suit. A closer look at the tradition from its beginning to the present may reassure that it does contain a measure of continuity, some family resemblances and recognizable features which will indicate that the contemporary businessman is not entirely a curious visitor from a remote but well organized planet.

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