Business is a competitive and merciless sphere. If one wants to reach success, he or she will need to devote lion’s share of time, mental and physical strength to the work. Yet this can be not enough. Often one needs to reveal such treats of character as cunning, ruthlessness, and rigidity. That is why people call successful businessmen and businesswomen “sharks” or “machines” – pity, compassion, and weakness are unacceptable in the pursuit of money. “Glengarry Glen Ross” is a play written by David Mamet, depicting two days of business life. It shows the early 1980’s in America, Chicago, time of competition, materialism and consumerism, in a vivid and frank style.
1980’s is a period of the president Ronald Reagan policy. The acting laws created the situation where low level employees were paid less and the higher level employees earned more. It meant that those who were less rich, had less opportunities, and prosperous people were given more privileges. The way to reach stability and wellbeing was to be already successful. Such tough conditions made the competitive business sphere even more severe and harsh. Weaknesses were not forgiven and failures were punished. Was it possible to preserve humanity? The characters of the play, salesmen, are merciless both to each other and to the customers. All is fair in war. Flattery and con, cheating and threatening, scam and traps – heroes in “Glengarry Glen Ross” do not shun to use any means on their way to success.
There are few characters in the play. Levene, Roma, Moss and Aaronow are the salesmen, and Williamson is their supervisor, working in the company that sells undesirable estate at inflated cost. The atmosphere in the office is rather tense. Moreover, the direction declares the competition: the first prize is a Cadillac, the second is a set of steak knives and the worst two will be fired. Besides, the salesman on the top of the board gets better leads, leaving those behind him in a desperate position, with poor chances for success. Salesmen consider their trade to be a real sign of manhood. Levene reproaches Williamson, “A man’s job…You don’t know what it is, you don’t have the sense, you don’t have the balls” (60). Roma says that “We are the members of a dying breed…that’s why we have to stick together” (90). Although the competition spirit makes the trade company look like a serpentarium, where everyone envies, suspects and ready to poison the opponent.
The ways the salesman are trying to win are various and far from being fair. Levene is trying to persuade Williamson to give him better leads using boasting, threatening, begging, flattering and bribing. Finally, he robbed the office. In making the deal with the Nyborg couple he managed to sign the contract merely by wearing them out. He used to be the best some time ago and desperately wants to regain his position. Roma, the top salesman, is smarter and more sophisticated. His ways of selling are cleverer – he made Lingk buy the land by convincing him that it was his own idea. On the other hand he is a cheater, who plays with words, cons, and lies to make a deal. Moss is the most angry and stubborn. His aggressive way of selling does not make him a good businessman. At the same time, he uses mild-mannered people to fulfill his plans. His traps are not as neat as Roma’s are, still he manages to overpower Aaronow and Levene. Aaronow is a timid and rather dull salesman, who merely follows stronger person. He is unlikely to reach success and is in danger of being fired. Their office manager Williamson refuses to support Levene and stays loyal to the company policy only because the salesman could not provide him enough money. Such a “warm company” represents the competitive and ruthless, “real man’s” world of estate salesmen.
Crave for money and success makes people egoistic and wicked. Levene threatens and insults Williamson as soon as he considers that he managed to reach the top. Williamson pays back by revealing him being the thief, refusing to hear anything “Because I don’t like you” (90). Roma cheats Lyngk, plays a real drama scene with Levene, pretends to confuse the terms of the deal and loses his temper when Williamson accidentally tells the truth to the customer, “You’re going out, I swear to you…” (81). Moss makes Aaronow his accomplice in a robbery simply “Because you listened” (33). He accuses the directors who make them act that way, but he does not do anything to break the system. He persuades Aaronow saying that Jerry Graff, a businessman who is willing to buy stolen leads, has a better way of employment, providing no evidences. Roma proposes to Levene to be partners out of sheer greed – he plans to get his own 100 % commission and get Levene’s 50 %. In this company the only way to success is to mistreat colleagues and exploit each other.
On the other hand, in the cruel business world there were some moments of light. Levene was trying to help Roma in lying to Lyngk and pretended to be “D. Ray Morton”. Williamson was trying to help Roma as well – he though that by telling the truth he will calm down the customer. Roma encourages Levene to tell the story of the last successful deal and proposes partnership: “The Machine, there’s a man I would work with…There’s things I could learn from you” (91). However, Mamet reveals the true Roma’s intentions.
The end of the play shows that in such competitive and aggressive surrounding there are no winners. No salesman got what he was craving for. Mamet comes to the conclusion that hyper-competitiveness, materialism and lies is not the right way for “the real men” to face the problems and reach success.