The Business Man


The Business Man

Infobox short story |
name = The Business Man
title_orig =
translator =
author = Edgar Allan Poe
country = United States
language = English
series =
genre = Short story
published_in =
publisher = "Burton's Gentleman's Magazine"
media_type = Print (periodical)
pub_date = February 1840
english_pub_date =
preceded_by =
followed_by =
"The Business Man" is a short story written by Edgar Allan Poe about a fictitious businessman boasting of his accomplishments. It was published in February 1840 in "Burton's Gentleman's Magazine". The story questions the concept of a self-made man.

Plot summary

The narrator of the story is Peter Proffit, a "methodical" businessman by his own admission. He says a nurse swung him around when he was a young boy, and he bumped himself on the head against a bedpost. That single event determined his fate: the resulting bump was in the area dedicated to system and regularity, according to phrenology.

Proffit goes on to say that he despises geniuses and that they are all asses — "the greater the genius the greater the ass." Geniuses can not, he says, be turned into men of business.

At the age of fourteen, his father forced him to work as a merchant, which Proffit could not stand. He says that though most boys run away from home at the age of twelve, he chose to wait until the age of sixteen. What finally convinced him was his mother's suggestion that he work as a grocer. Instead, he becomes a "Walking-Advertisement" for a tailor. Feeling swindled by his employer over a penny, however, he moves on to start his own business.

Proffit's new business is the "Eye-Sore" business. When he sees a large home or palace being built, he buys a nearby or adjoining property and builds a "mud-hovel" or "pig-sty" so ugly that he is paid 500% the value of the lot to tear it down. One owner, however, offers less than 500%. In retaliation, Proffit lamp-blacks the house overnight. For this, he is put in jail and is ostracized by others in the Eye-Sore business.

Proffit then enters the Assault-and-Battery business. He makes money by starting fights with people on the streets and then sues them for attacking him. He then becomes involved with Mud-Dabbling, forcing people to pay him not to splash them with mud. He also has a dog rub up against people's shoes to make them dirty, then offers his services as a shoeshiner. Though he gave the dog a third of the profits, the routine split when the dog began to demand half.

Proffit then becomes an organ grinder, though he makes money by people paying him to stop rather than to play. He boasts of his own abilities in business and lists his eight "speculations" for success. He then tries forging letters and delivering them to rich people, asking them to pay postage themselves. He says, however, that he had moral issues with this line of work after hearing people say unkind things about the fake people who had written to them.

A law is later passed to keep down the population of cats, with citizens paid for any cat tails they turn in. Proffit begins to raise cats so that he can collect the reward for their tails. It was his most profitable venture. After all his business ventures, he considers himself "a made man" and is considering running for office -- or, more accurately, purchasing a seat in county government.

Analysis

The story is a satire [cite book | title=Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy | last=Meyers | first=Jeffrey | authorlink= | publisher=Cooper Square Press | location=New York | edition=Paperback ed. | date=1992 | pages=69 | isbn=0815410387] and is often interpreted as a reflection of Poe's strained relationship with his foster father John Allan, himself a successful businessman. [cite book| title=Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z | last=Sova | first=Dawn B. | publisher=Checkmark Books | location=New York | date=2001 | id=ISBN 081604161X |pages=40] The story also satirizes businesspeople in general, suggesting that their success is not due to their method of punctuality and self-discipline but because of ruthless business practices, violence, egotism, and pure chance.Schnackertz, Hermann Josef. "Of Bumps and Brains: E. A. Poe and Phrenology", "Lost Worlds & Mad Elephants: Literature, Science and Technology". Galda & Wilch, 1999. p. 67. ISBN 3931397165] Poe also calls to question the concept of a "self-made man", expressing skepticism that such a concept is possible. [Person, Leland S. "Poe and Nineteenth Century Gender Constructions" as collected in "A Historical Guide to Edgar Allan Poe", J. Gerald Kennedy, Ed. Oxford University Press, 2001. p. 158–159. ISBN 0195121503] Like "The Man That Was Used Up", another of Poe's satires, this man is essentially hollow and worthless. [Person, Leland S. "Poe and Nineteenth Century Gender Constructions" as collected in "A Historical Guide to Edgar Allan Poe", J. Gerald Kennedy, Ed. Oxford University Press, 2001. p. 159. ISBN 0195121503]

In "The Business Man", Poe also makes fun of the dubious nature of phrenology, then a popular pseudoscience.

In the story, the narrator asserts: "In biography, truth is every thing, and in autobiography it is especially so." This is ironic considering Poe's own tendency to alter his life story; he often omitted details of his military career, and invented stories about his nonexistent travels to Greece, Turkey, and Russia. [cite book | title=Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy | last=Meyers | first=Jeffrey | authorlink= | publisher=Cooper Square Press | location=New York | edition=Paperback ed. | date=1992 | pages=38 | isbn=0815410387]

Proffit's dog is named Pompey, a name Poe also uses for two African slave characters in "A Predicament" and in "The Man That Was Used Up". [Goddu, Teresa A. "Poe, sensationalism, and slavery", "The Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe", Kevin J. Hayes (editor). New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002. p. 101. ISBN 0521797276]

Publication history

The story was originally titled "Peter Pendulum" [cite book| title=Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z | last=Sova | first=Dawn B. | publisher=Checkmark Books | location=New York | date=2001 | id=ISBN 081604161X |pages=279] and published in "Burton's Gentleman's Magazine" in February 1840. [cite book | title=Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography | last=Quinn | first=Arthur Hobson | authorlink= | publisher=Johns Hopkins University Press | location=Baltimore | edition=Paperback ed. | date=1998 | isbn=0801857309 | pages=294] It was first published as "The Business Man" in the August 2 1845 issue of the "Broadway Journal". [cite book| title=Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z | last=Sova | first=Dawn B. | publisher=Checkmark Books | location=New York | date=2001 | id=ISBN 081604161X |pages=40]

References

External links

* [http://www.eapoe.org/works/info/pt028.htm List of editions of "The Business Man"] at the [http://www.eapoe.org Edgar Allan Poe Society] online


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • The Working Man — is a 1933 American comedy film directed by John G. Adolfi. The screenplay by Charles Kenyon and Maude T. Howell is based on the story The Adopted Father by Edgar Franklin.ynopsisWealthy shoe magnate John Reeves finds himself without motivation… …   Wikipedia

  • The Answer Man — Solicita una imagen para este artículo. Título The Answer Man Ficha técnica …   Wikipedia Español

  • The Murder Man — Directed by Tim Whelan Produced by Harry Rapf …   Wikipedia

  • The Cunning Man — published by McClelland and Stewart in 1994, is the last novel written by Canadian novelist Robertson Davies. The Cunning Man is the memoir of the life of a doctor, Dr. Jonathan Hullah, living in Toronto. Hullah is a holistic physician mdash; a …   Wikipedia

  • The Music Man — This article is about the stage musical. For the 1962 film adaptation, see The Music Man (1962 film). For the 2003 made for television adaptation, see The Music Man (2003 film). For other uses, see Music Man. The Music Man Original Broadway… …   Wikipedia

  • The Stunt Man — Infobox Film name = The Stunt Man caption = Theatrical poster director = Richard Rush producer = Richard Rush writer = Novel: Paul Brodeur Screenplay: Richard Rush Lawrence B. Marcus starring = Peter O Toole Steve Railsback Barbara Hershey music …   Wikipedia

  • The Fourth Man — For the short story by Agatha Christie, see The Hound of Death#The Fourth Man. The Fourth Man Original film poster Directed by Paul Verhoeven …   Wikipedia

  • The Bothersome Man — Den brysomme mannen Directed by Jens Lien Produced by Jørgen Storm Rosenberg Written by Per H. V. Schrei …   Wikipedia

  • The Family Man — Filmdaten Deutscher Titel: Family Man Originaltitel: The Family Man Produktionsland: USA Erscheinungsjahr: 2000 Länge: 121 Minuten Originalsprache: Englisch …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • The Old Man — Infobox Television episode Title = The Old Man Series = Seinfeld Caption = George, Elaine and Jerry in the apartment. Season = 4 Episode = 58 Airdate = February 18, 1993 Production = Writer = Larry Charles Director = Tom Cherones Guests = Edie… …   Wikipedia