The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit: Bitter or just truthful?

Before he going off to war, Thomas R. Rath, had married, hoping he’d survive to come home to live happily with his wife.

Tom survived, but as the story opens, he hasn’t found happiness.

Sloan Wilson’s The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit resonated with readers in 1995 who, like Tom, were finding post-war life a let down.

The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit by Sloan Wilson

Simon & Schuster, 1955. 304 pages. 1955 bestseller #5. My grade: B.

suited businessman with briefcaseFinding it hard to raise three children on his salary, Tom applies for a rumored opening in the PR department of a broadcasting company.

He’s hired and becomes a flunkey to the head of the company, a man whose folksy charm hides a driving ambition.

Tom’s unease in the job becomes acute when the elevator operator recognizes him from their paratrooper days.

Tom realizes that he’s become another “man in a gray flannel suit,” rushing around filling time, “pursuing neither ideals nor happiness.”

He’s forced to confront his past and his present.

Wilson’s novel is as good today as it was in 1955, but it won’t draw raves in our suitless society.

Today every is rushing about, looking busy with text messaging and phone apps and tablets.

Hardly anyone today stops to ask, “What am I doing this for?”

But they should.

As Tom learns, what sounds bitter and ironic may be simple truth.

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Graphic credit: Business Shadow by ilco

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Linda G. Aragoni

I make big ideas simple for learners. In eight sentences, 34 words, I taught teens and adults to write competently. Now I'm writing guides to turn willing volunteers into great nursing home visitors.

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