The Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet is a speech-act play in two acts. The plot of the drama encumbers the hypocrisies and corruptions of American capitalism, often mythologized as the American dream. Mamet’s main characters are salesmen; these people play the pivotal role in capitalist business machinery.
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The characters speak incessantly and about many things, with the sole intention, to persuade the other to be persuaded into an unethical fraud. The play presents the theme of hypocrisy of the corporate America and the decadence that has made people brutal, callous, conniving, and duplicitous. This essay looks into two scenes of the play.
The play presents the tale of four salesmen who are ready to use the profanest of means to win the contest so cleverly devised by the company directors Mitch and Murray. The directors are not shown on stage, but they are alarmingly ubiquitous.
The contest devised by them does not only ensure that the salesmen are competing against each other but are fighting against one another in a battle to win the Cadillac. It is also a fight to preserve their livelihood by trying to achieve the given targets and not be fired.
At the beginning, Roma was expected to win the contest, with Moss and Levene following closely behind, and Aaranow in the fourth place. Ironically, it is Aaranow, who is not very aggressive or dishonest, consequently making his productivity low. The linguistic skills and the position on the board of the characters speak lucidly of their characters in the play.
The first act begins in a Chinese restaurant. It is made up of three short scenes. The scene shows how Roma, the successful salesman, makes his sales pitch to a prospective customer; Moss feels extremely insecure at the prospect of the latest development in office regarding the sales contest and expresses his resentfulness to a colleague.
Moss’s resentfulness becomes his agenda, and he tries to persuade Aaranow to be his ally in the game of stealing the ‘leads’ from the office and help him sell them to a rival agent. This sets the storyline of the play in motion.
In the second Act, the burglary occurs, and the repercussion is chaos in the office. According to the stage directions in the play, the office is in a disarray, “ransacked, a broken plate glass window boarded up, glass all over the place” (Mamet 38).
The office had been completely looted with the phones and official documents all gone missing. The phones and other equipment went missing too, but the Detective assigned to the case was not convinced, and he began interrogating the staff. Moss had convinced Levene to commit the crime, which he confessed to Williamson.
The persuader falls into the trap of being persuaded. Levene, an experienced salesman, adept in the art of slippery behavior, concedes with little resistance, to his crime. Thus, the man who was responsible for persuading others to buy inflated, overprices, property, fails to keep a secret that, when revealed, would destroy him.
A verbal slip brought upon him his nemesis. At a moment of uncharacteristic weakness, Levene, a man capable of swindling others with his words, failed to cover up his misdeed. This is an example of Mamet’s portrayal of human decline in face of insecurity and uncertainty.
Persuasion holds a strong place in the play. The illocution of the whole drama is based on the skill of persuasion. The drama reverberates with the maxim popular in business jargons spoken by Roma, “Always be closing”, which resounds as the golden rule for salesmen (Mamet 58). The words “sell” and “close” occur repeatedly in the play. This shows the discourse of persuasion and persuaded.
The job of a salesman, as depicted by Mamet, is to persuade, with innumerable lies and half-truth to buy something that he/she seldom needs. This shows the art of persuasion of the salesman.
The act of persuasion as presented in the play is transactional, that shows the salesmen making their pitch and expecting the customers to react. In case of Roma and Lingk, Roma persuades Lingk and his wife to invest in the property. His sales pitch started with a lot of pseudo-philosophical talk and then entering into the serious talk of the land in Florida:
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I don’t know. I don’t know anymore. (pause. He takes out a small map and spreads it on a table) What is that? Florida. Glengarry Highlands. Florida. “Florida. Bullshit.” And maybe that’s true; and that’s what I said: but look here: what is this? This is a piece of land. Listen to what I’m going to tell you now: (Mamet 38)
They sign the papers and it makes Roma the best performing salesman in the office, and the only candidate for the Cadillac. He was in a mood to rejoice, when Lingk comes to the office and says that he would like to revoke the agreement. The persuaded is convinced that the agreement he entered will be a dead investment and wanted to get back his money.
However, the cheque had been processed, and Lignk could not get his money back. He showed his disappointment in Roma and in the latter’s hollow talk. The hollowness of the whole affairs becomes evident to Lingk when Williamson tells him that his cheque had been cleared, after the assurance given by Roma that he had “just called downtown, and it’s on their desk” (Mamet 72).
Lingk’s expression was one of disbelief when a few moments later Williamson tells him that he had cashed the cheque:
Williamson: Your contract went out to the bank.
Lingk: You cashed the check?
Williamson: Your check as cashed yesterday afternoon. And we’re completely insured, as you know, in any case.
Lingk: (to Roma) You cashed the check? (Mamet 80-81)
On learning this, Lingk’s disbelief turns to self-remorse and he says that he was sorry for he had let Roma down: “Oh, Christ… Don’t follow me…Oh, Christ. I know I’ve let you down. I’m sorry. For…Forgive…for…I don’t know anymore. Forgive me.” (Mamet 82) His belief in Roma was shattered and the act of duplicity had left him wordless.
On the other hand, for Levene the act of persuasion was a gain. He, not only got hold of the contract from the clients, but also gained back his self-confidence. The act of persuading the couple actually helped Levene regain back his lost self-confidence. He used to be an ace salesman, but with time, and heightened competition, his skills became less sharp.
However, with this one deal, his self-confidence was boosted. This was evident when he said in exaltation to Roma: “I did it. I did it. Like in the old says, Ricky. Like I was taught… Like, like, like I used to do…I did it.” (Mamet 59)
By making, the couples sign the papers, Levene shows a power he holds over them, especially when the latter has the power to refuse or accept his offer. The act of persuasion is shown again in the scene between Moss and Aaronow, when Moss decisively tells Aaronow that he had to go in and steal the leads: “You have to go in. You have to get the leads.” (Mamet 29)
Persuasion is presented, on the hand, as a form of request. However, the persuasion works against the persuaded. The persuaded are always at loss in this drama. Mamet shows that the capitalist society committed unethical duplicity to swindle middle class families to prosper their own cause.
Further, it is the common man, as well as the perpetrators of these unethical conducts who were responsible for the swindle, were mere machines, controlled the capitalist hierarchy.
Mamet, in the drama, presents salesmen, adept in their linguistic skill but corrupted by the system. The system that creates automatons, also design measures to gauge their performance, and the best performing of the lot is usually the ones who have no moral ideals.
The drama shows that man has the power to accept the worst as a common reality. The way Lingk reacts to the news of his cheque being processed, or Roma when he finds out how he was to be arrested for duplicity, shows that man, in a capitalist era, accepted everything in a mundane way.
Even after such an eventful day, Roma ends the play by saying “I’ll be at the restaurant” strikes as a deliberate attempt to normalize his life even when he faces possible legal charges.
The drama clearly shows that money is the downfall of man. These four men, shown in the drama, are pawns of capitalist desire. In their material lust, they fail to fathom the importance of morality and ethics. Their life is driven by a contest, and they compete against each other, fighting, conniving, bullying, and scheming to win. The drama portrays men in his basest self.
Mamet, David. Glengary Glen Ross, New York: Grove Press, 1984. Print.