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Glengarry Glen Ross | Plot Summary

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Summary

Set in early 1980s Chicago, Glengarry Glen Ross takes place over 16 hours in the lives of four salesmen (Shelly Levene, George Aaronow, Dave Moss, and Richard Roma) and their office manager (John Williamson). Based in a small satellite office, the salesmen pitch subpar investment properties to gullible middle-class Americans and immigrants looking for financial prosperity during an economic downturn. The salesmen work on commission, so if they don't sell they don't make money. A monthlong sales contest hosted by unseen company owners Mitch and Murray adds insult to injury for the struggling sales team. The person with the most sales during the month will win a Cadillac, while the two salesmen with the fewest sales will be fired.

Act 1

Act 1's three scenes take place in a Chinese restaurant near the sales office. In Scene 1 Levene is complaining to Williamson about the quality of leads—people potentially interested in purchasing property—he has been receiving. Levene was a top salesman for Mitch and Murray in the past, but recently Roma and Moss have far outpaced him. He attributes his professional decline to bad luck and insists he's a more skilled salesman than anyone else in the office. The problem is the good leads go only to the top performers, which hinders everyone else's chances at closing deals. He tries to bribe Williamson for two premium leads, but when Williamson finally agrees it turns out Levene doesn't have the cash to pay him. He is forced to settle for lower-quality leads.

In Scene 2 Moss and Aaronow sit talking after a meal at the Chinese restaurant. They complain about the unfairness of the sales contest and their dislike for prospective buyers who happen to be immigrants. Moss envies Jerry Graff, who left Mitch and Murray to start his own sales business. He buys his own lists of leads, gets to keep the entire commission, and isn't humiliated in the process. As if he had just thought of it, Moss tells Aaronow someone should steal the premium leads from their office and sell them to Graff. That would "pay back" Mitch and Murray for all they've put the salesmen through. Aaronow doesn't like the sound of this, but Moss assures him they are only talking about the theft in the abstract. It soon becomes clear, however, that Moss has already struck a deal with Graff, which includes a hefty payoff and the promise of a job. Aaronow suddenly finds himself talking about the robbery in concrete terms. Moss promises Aaronow a cut of the payoff and a job with Graff, but Aaronow has to be the one to actually commit the crime. Bewildered, Aaronow tries to distance himself from the plan. It's no use—Moss says Aaronow is an accomplice just for entertaining the idea in the first place.

In Scene 3 a final pair meets at the Chinese restaurant: Roma and James Lingk. Lingk, a regular guy having dinner on his own, is drawn in by Roma's friendly chatter that soon becomes a rumination on life, luck, and opportunity. As the curtain closes on Act 1, Roma is showing Lingk a map of Glengarry Highlands in Florida. The audience will learn in Act 2 that Roma has convinced Lingk to invest.

Act 2

Act 2 takes place in the small satellite real estate office managed by Williamson. Someone broke into the office the previous night and stole the leads, some of the contracts, the telephones, and the typewriters. A police detective, Baylen, is interviewing the salesmen one by one in Williamson's inner office. Roma is panicking, convinced his contract with Lingk has been stolen, but Williamson assures him it was sent downtown the previous night.

A jubilant Levene walks in, oblivious to the chaos surrounding him. He closed a huge deal that morning with a couple named Bruce and Harriett Nyborg. His reenactment of the sale is interrupted by Moss, who has just been interviewed by Baylen. He's furious at the way the detective treated him, and he and Roma, who was paying rapt attention to Levene, get into a fight. Moss storms out of the office as Aaronow takes his turn with Baylen. Levene finishes his story and tears into Williamson for not being more excited about the sale.

Roma spots Lingk walking toward the office. He and Levene put on an elaborate show devised to get Roma out of the office without having to deal with Lingk, who wants to get out of his contract before the three-day cancellation period expires. Lingk's wife has ordered him to get their money back, and he is visibly distressed. Roma just about has him calmed down when Williamson reveals that Lingk's check was cashed the previous afternoon. This is the worst possible news for Lingk, who rushes out of the office. Roma is being called to his interview with Baylen but first turns on Williamson and accuses him of sabotaging the sale. Levene picks up where Roma leaves off—chastising Williamson for making up lies that end up hurting his sales staff.

This stops Williamson in his tracks. He hadn't actually taken the contract to the bank as he told Roma and Lingk—he left it on his desk. Only someone who had been in his office after hours—like a burglar—would know that. Levene confesses to the robbery and implicates Moss. Levene begs for a chance to make things right, offering to give Williamson 50 percent of all his sales, but Williamson decides to turn him in anyway. Adding insult to injury, Williamson tells Levene his sale to the Nyborgs is no good—the bank told him months ago they didn't have any money. They just like talking to salesmen. Reeling from this revelation, Levene barely says a word as Roma, finished with his interview, propositions him for a partnership. Levene goes into the inner office to talk to Baylen. Roma tells Williamson half of everything Levene earns from now on is his, then heads to the Chinese restaurant.

Glengarry Glen Ross Plot Diagram

Falling ActionRising ActionResolutionClimax123456789101112Introduction

Introduction

1 Levene complains to Williamson about poor leads.

Rising Action

2 Moss outlines the scheme to rob the office.

3 Roma pitches Lingk.

4 Roma panics about the stolen contracts.

5 Following his interrogation, Moss picks a fight with Roma.

6 Lingk arrives at the office to cancel his deal with Roma.

7 Williamson tells Lingk his check has already been cashed.

8 Roma castigates Williamson for sabotaging his sale.

Climax

9 Williamson figures out Levene was the burglar.

Falling Action

10 Williamson ignores Levene's pleas for forgiveness.

11 Roma tells Levene they should be sales partners.

Resolution

12 Levene goes into the interrogation room.

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