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Glengarry Glen Ross | Motifs

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Racism

Mitch and Murray's salesmen have been in hundreds of different living rooms, and they all agree that people of Polish and South Asian Indian descent make terrible leads. George Aaronow says, "Polacks ... hold on to their money," while Dave Moss bluntly calls them "deadbeats." Indians, Moss says, just like talking to salesmen. "They like to feel superior, I don't know," he tells Aaronow. Richard Roma has a more visceral reaction in Act 2 when John Williamson gives him a lead named Ravidam Patel. "How am I going to make a living on these deadbeat wogs?" he asks. He would rather go out and reclose all the contracts that were stolen in the robbery than try to make a new sale to someone with an Indian name.

Perhaps there's statistical significance behind the salesmen's theories about which ethnicities make the worst prospects, but it's more likely that they're just plain racist. These men have no problem putting down their coworkers to feel better about themselves, so it's not a giant stretch to assume they'd assign negative stereotypes to entire ethnic populations as a means of feeling better about sales they couldn't close. The racism portrayed in Glengarry Glen Ross is representative of the salesmen's innate desire to be better than everyone else. They put down others to lift themselves.

Speech and Language

David Mamet is known for his distinct style of dialogue. Known as Mamet Speak, it's often full of profanity, pauses, and rhythmic sounds that resemble poetry. In Glengarry Glen Ross each character's speech pattern represents his sales capability and place in the office hierarchy. George Aaronow, for example, barely speaks 10 words at a time during his conversation with Dave Moss in Act 1, Scene 2. Moss rambles at length, pausing only for Aaronow to either repeat what Moss has said or to ask a brief question. Moss is in the position of power here, which he maintains by constantly drawing attention to himself. "That's what I'm saying," "Listen to this," and "You're absolutely right, and I want to tell you something," all remind Aaronow, and the audience, that Moss is the one in control of this conversation. In the sales standings he's only behind Richard Roma, while Aaronow is at the bottom of the pack.

James Lingk is another character who barely speaks. His manner of speech is indicative of his lack of masculinity, while Roma's verbosity and careful choice of words show the preponderance of his. "She gives me a cigarette, my balls feel like concrete," Roma says to Lingk in Act 1, Scene 3. Lingk is so startled by the force and breadth of this conversation that he doesn't even know how to respond to Roma's rhetorical questions, finally settling for an "Mmmm" to show that he's still listening. Roma is the smoothest talker in the office, speaking directly and with conviction even when he's telling the boldest of lies. Lingk, on the other hand, pauses often and seems to struggle to get even the most basic sentences out. This makes him seem weak while Roma comes across as confident and manly.

Though Shelly Levene says he's a good salesman, he can't even sell himself to the office manager. Act 1, Scene 1 opens with him saying to John Williamson, "John ... John ... John. Okay. John. John. Look." This conversation is meant to persuade Williamson Levene deserves better leads, but it only highlights Levene's ineptitude. Compared to Williamson, who doesn't seem interested in the conversation, Levene comes across as weak and needy. When Williamson finally speaks at length at the end of Act 2, it is with confidence, ease, and power: "I'm saying this, Shel: usually I take the contracts to the bank. Last night I didn't." He pauses only for effect—unlike Levene he's not searching for the right words. They come naturally. Just as Roma's confident manner of speaking enforces his status as the top salesman in the office, Williamson's no-nonsense speech establishes him as a powerful individual.

Leads

In Glengarry Glen Ross "leads" are the names and contact information for people who have previously expressed interest in learning more about the properties sold by Mitch and Murray's company. Leads can be good or bad. A good lead is someone with an expendable income who is likely to invest in one or more properties, while a bad lead is someone who either doesn't have any money or isn't willing to risk an investment. A good lead can make a salesman's month, while bad leads are a demoralizing waste of time. Good sellers, like Richard Roma, get the best leads, while the less successful salesmen, like Shelly Levene, get the ones that are least likely to pan out. Though that works out in the favor of the company's owners, it's terrible for salesmen on a bad streak. In addition to foretelling the likelihood of a salesman's success, the unfair handling of the leads in Glengarry Glen Ross represents the inherently immoral nature of capitalism.

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