American Buffalo Summary

Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

One Friday morning in Don’s Resale Shop, Donny and Bobby are talking; Donny is upset because Bobby abandoned his post in the store when he was supposed to be watching someone. While Bobby apologizes, Donny imparts some wisdom about running a business, referring to Fletcher, a winning poker player, who embodies the critical savvy people can learn only on the street. It is evident that Donny cares about Bobby as a friend and his mentor.

Shortly, Walter Cole, called Teach, enters the shop ranting about a trivial misunderstanding with Ruthie and Grace, some poker friends, over a recent breakfast; to assuage Teach’s fury, Donny suggests that Bobby run to the Riverside restaurant to pick up breakfast for the three of them. In Bobby’s absence, the two discuss last night’s poker game, and Teach expounds on the necessary distinction between business and friendship. During the exchange, Teach picks up some old knickknacks from the counter and complains that if only he had kept all the things he threw out, he would be a wealthy man.

Bobby reenters the shop with breakfast, but he has forgotten Donny’s coffee. Before heading back to the restaurant to retrieve the coffee, Bobby tells Donny that he saw the guy they are looking for leaving the restaurant with a suitcase. Teach wants to know about the man with the suitcase. Donny first hesitates but then tells Teach that the man had recently taken advantage of him by purchasing a buffalo nickel for less than what it is worth. Donny wants revenge and plans to steal the nickel from the man, then resell it at a higher price to another collector.

Teach warns against involving Bobby, alluding to Bobby’s history of drug use, and argues that Donny is blinded by his sense of loyalty, which angers him. Donny assures Teach that Bobby is clean, but Teach insists he himself is the better person for the job. Bobby reenters the shop with the coffee, and Teach verbally bullies him, trying to make him look incompetent to Donny. Bobby, oblivious, asks Donny for some money for the nickel job up front; Donny agrees to give Bobby the cash, but tells him to forget about the job.

Bobby leaves, and Teach and Donny discuss their plans for the theft, talking with certainty about how they will get in but uncertain where the coins will be located. Teach suggests they take more...

(The entire section is 958 words.)

American Buffalo Summary (Masterpieces of American Literature)

The scene is a sleazy junk store, run by Donny, in a run-down urban setting. Donny runs the shop in a low key, using Bobby to run errands for him. The world of the shop is cluttered and arbitrary, an organic construction rather than a carefully designed one. The financial stakes are low here; an occasional sale to a passerby is enough to sustain the two men in their unambitious lives.

Into this mix comes Teach—angry, “wired,” full of venomous energy—with a plan, a scheme, a project of the will (to use Henrik Ibsen’s term). It is not enough for Teach to plan and carry out the crime; his innate secretiveness, paranoia, and distrust must extend to his partners, Donny and an offstage figure (Fletch) who eventually deserts the project. Teach brings an anger with him that has become emblematic of the kind of vicious energy that drives Mamet’s plays forward. One sees the same kind of energy in Bernie (Sexual Perversity in Chicago) and in Roma (Glengarry Glen Ross), although Roma is closer to a hero than other destructive Mamet characters.

Driving the minor-key greed of the two more passive characters (Bobby is slightly simple, helpful, and, in a scheme of his own, determined to please Donny) is the possibility of stealing back a coin Donny sold to a customer some time previously. Apparently the coin, a buffalo-head nickel, has some value, because the customer paid fifty dollars for it. Rather than taking delight in Donny’s windfall, Teach sees the customer as a cheat who probably knows the coin was worth even more....

(The entire section is 640 words.)

American Buffalo Summary

Act I Summary

American Buffalo takes place in "Don's Resale Shop," a secondhand junk store run by Don Dubrow, the play's protagonist. When the play...

(The entire section is 647 words.)

Act II Summary

It is 11:15 that evening and Teach has not yet arrived. Don is also unable to reach Fletcher, whose phone line only offers him a busy signal...

(The entire section is 749 words.)