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Glengarry Glen Ross | Study Guide

David Mamet

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Glengarry Glen Ross | Quotes


Bad luck. That's all it is.

Shelly Levene, Act 1, Scene 1

Shelly Levene insists his current last-place position on the leaderboard isn't because of a lack of sales skills but rather luck. It's something that just can't be helped. Likewise it is luck that makes Richard Roma and Dave Moss the current top performers in the office. But Levene attributes his own days of being a top performer to his natural abilities for sales. That doesn't match up with his previous protestations about bad luck, which makes the audience question whether Levene is as good a salesman as he says he is—or if he is embellishing history to make himself look good.


Don't look at the board, look at me.

Shelly Levene, Act 1, Scene 1

Shelly Levene is pleading with John Williamson about the distribution of the sales leads. Traditionally the best leads go to the best salesman. Levene argues that Williamson shouldn't go by numbers alone—he needs to look at the skills of his team members. This plea also works on a deeper level, with Levene asking Williamson to access any compassion he has left and look at Levene as a human, not as a failing sales machine. Williamson refuses to do either.


I got to close this fucker, or I don't eat lunch.

Dave Moss, Act 1, Scene 2

Dave Moss is talking to George Aaronow about the pressure of being a salesman. The salesmen work on commission, so if they don't make any sales they also don't make any money. Closing deals is more than the pride of success—it's their only means of survival.


Don't sell a guy one car. Sell him five cars over fifteen years.

Dave Moss, Act 1, Scene 2

Dave Moss takes a more humane approach to sales than his bosses. Instead of taking clients for all they have now, he thinks it's better—and more lucrative—to establish a long-term relationship and take a little at a time.


I thought that we were only talking ...

George Aaronow, Act 1, Scene 2

Language is everything in David Mamet's plays. Just the tone of the actor's voice can change a word's meaning. In this case George Aaronow thinks he and Dave Moss are talking about a robbery in the abstract, as something they could do but definitely won't. He realizes Moss is actually talking in concrete terms about the plan. The emphasis on the word talking indicates the plan's transformation from theory to reality.


Always be closing ...

Richard Roma, Act 2

The mantra of the salesmen, "Always be closing," refers to the salesman's never-ending quest for the next sale. It's something Shelly Levene and Richard Roma were taught when they first started selling, and it's what Roma does when he meets James Lingk in the Chinese restaurant. He pitches, he sells, and he closes the deal, all within a matter of hours.


No one should talk to a man that way.

George Aaronow, Act 2

George Aaronow is irate following his interview with Detective Baylen. The audience doesn't see or hear the interaction between the two men, but it is evident Aaronow feels attacked and insulted. His insistence that he is a "man" implies that Baylen is not. It also suggests Aaronow feels emasculated by being put in such a vulnerable position. When he comes out of the office, he wants everyone to know there is no question that he is just as manly as everyone else in the office.


I don't have the power.

James Lingk, Act 2

James Lingk is explicitly saying his wife has not given him the power to negotiate the investment deal with Richard Roma any further. He's also implying he has no power in his marriage in general. It is his wife, not he, who plays the masculine and domineering role in their relationship.


Whoever told you you could work with men?

Richard Roma, Act 2

Richard Roma is furious with John Williamson, who just accidentally ruined Roma's deal with James Lingk. He calls Williamson a variety of derogatory names, then implies Williamson isn't a "man" like the rest of the males in the office. This is a terrible insult, and it's one the salesmen make over and over in regard to Williamson. Williamson doesn't seem bothered, though. He knows that he has the most power and influence of anyone in the group because he holds all the leads.


You never open your mouth till you know what the shot is.

Richard Roma, Act 2

John Williamson thought he was helping Richard Roma by assuring James Lingk his contract and check had already been sent to the bank, but his interference ends up costing Roma the sale and the Cadillac. Roma knows Williamson didn't sabotage the deal on purpose, but he wants Williamson to understand one of the first rules of sales: keep your mouth shut unless you know what you're talking about.


And now I'm back, and I got my balls back.

Shelly Levene, Act 2

Riding high from his sale to the Nyborgs, Shelly Levene tells John Williamson that he's ready to go out and close more leads. He feels powerful and masculine, which is why he announces he has his "balls back." The dramatic irony, in which the audience knows more than the character, in this is that Levene doesn't have his "balls back," as the Nyborg deal isn't actually going to go through.


Because I don't like you.

John Williamson, Act 2

John Williamson's admission that he doesn't like Shelly Levene explains why he's going to turn him in even though he has promised he won't. It also explains why Levene was getting such bad leads. It's Williamson's job to "marshal" the leads, which means that he decides who gets the good ones and who gets the bad ones. He wants Levene to fail simply because he doesn't like him.


My stuff is mine, his stuff is ours.

Richard Roma, Act 2

Unaware of Shelly Levene's involvement in the office burglary, Richard Roma thinks he has conned the older man into being his sales partner—with no intent of it being an equal partnership. He tells John Williamson to make sure he gets half of Levene's earnings as well as all of his own. When it comes to business, Roma isn't above cheating anyone, even his coworkers.

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