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Musterlösung 2013: Textverständnis und Analyse: Fiktionaler Text: „Just business“ by E. Bogosian (GK)


Point out the main aspects of the phone call. Focus on the caller’s aim, the arguments put forward by him and his employer as well as the outcome of this call.

Analyse the way in which the phone call and the employer’s reaction are presented. Refer to the employer’s communicative strategies, his use of language and stylistic devices. 



Jack has called his employer on behalf of a former colleague, Barry, who has just been fired. Jack tries to persuade his boss to think over his decision as Barry seems to have been a longstanding employee who – we may take it from the employer’s reaction – did quite a good job for the company. Apparently Jack seems to want to convince his boss that there must be another way which would save Barry’s job. The employer does not react to any of Jack’s arguments, instead he is shouting down the latter’s efforts to stand up for his co-worker. The only thing that is important from his point of view is making profit at all costs, even if that means sacking a skilled and hard-working employee and to replace him by somebody younger who is willing to work for much less than Barry. The fact that Barry is fifty-nine – therefore too old – and the fact that he costs the company more than another outweigh any considerations of merits or experience with the boss. For him Barry is nothing short of an economic burden on his company’s balance sheets. 

As Jack does not seem to want to give in, the boss gets impatient and angry even threatening him not to waste his time with discussions about a decision which he has no intention of changing. In the end Jack is forced to give up and to accept that his boss’s decision is final.

(241 words)


On stage the audience of Eric Bogosian’s play Just Business gets to see only one side of the telephone conversation between Jack and his boss. Thus they can only infer from the employer’s reaction that Jack seems to be a good friend of Barry who is obviously trying hard to save the latter’s job. From the beginning we get the impression that the employer is not in the least bit interested in what Jack has to say and that he is quite irritated about having to have this conversation at all. This becomes even clearer the longer Jack tries to plead Barry’s case. With every new attempt on Jack’s side to bring forward arguments in Barry’s favour, the boss gets more and more impatient and angry.

At the same time the audience gets a clear picture of the employer’s attitude towards his business and his employees. His whole communicative strategy displays a mere show of openness and personal interest in Barry’s situation. It is marked by the use of a falsely reassuring tone, polite but empty phrases (e.g. “I think it’s great that you’re sticking up for the guy[…] I really appreciate it[…]” ll.3-4; “It’s good to hear your point of view, Jack[…]” l.5), platitudes (e.g.“I didn’t want to fire him.” l.17; “it’s tough, but what else can I do?” l.20) and repetitions. (“Yeah” ll.1-2, ll.6; “OK.”ll.40-42). It may be easy to put on this show for Jack who is on the phone; the audience, however, who can see his manner as well, are able to feel the full hypocrisy on the employer’s side.

The boss’s real attitude is revealed when he scornfully describes the type of workers he needs. They are stripped of any human quality, simple reduced to their performance rate and their worth in cash for the company (i.e. see ll.10-12). Profit, it becomes clear, is the only consideration with this entrepreneur and there are no concessions made that might lose the company money. The employer even goes as far as reminding Jack of the luxuries that he is able to afford due to his well-paid job (see ll.27-29); a subtle warning that he might lose his job just as Barry if he persists his pleading on the latter’s behalf. This warning is intensified when the boss announces that he now wants to get rid of Barry even more since he is obviously wasting Jack’s time. However, he is by no means concerned about Jack. Again, his motto is ‘time is money’ thus he declares: “[…] I can’t have people wasting time in this company.” (ll.39-40)   

Despite his contempt for Barry and his threats towards Jack, the employer wraps up the phone call in a rather casual, conversational manner when he tells Jack to “say ‘Hi’ to Jeanette [his wife]” (l.42) for him. It is yet another meaningless and empty phrase.

(473 words)

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