Glengarry Glen Ross

by David Mamet

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How do their jobs affect Moss, Aaronow and Levene?

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There seems to be something draining and debilitating about the type of work these salesmen do. Ricky Roma has not been visibly affected yet because he is still young and full of energy and great expectations. But the other three principals, Dave Moss, Shelly Levene, and George Aaronow, all seem old before their times. It is almost as if they are being punished for all the lying and cheating they have to do in order to sell worthless or grossly overvalued land. They have to keep radically irregular hours because they need to get husbands and wives together on their sits. They have to get both signatures on the contract, and this usually means going to their homes at night, perhaps sitting there for hours making friendly conversation, and then either having a few drinks to celebrate or a few drinks to cheer them up because they failed to close. They do not eat regular meals at regular times. They gobble down short orders in restaurants that seem to stay open all night. The fact that they spend so much time eating and drinking at a Chinese restaurant seems to symbolize their de facto homelessness; it is as if they are living in far-away China. Dave Moss may have a wife and children but he says nothing about them. Shelly Levene seems to have no one except a grown daughter who is under intensive care in a hospital. George Aaronow gives the impression of being completely alone in the world. They are being driven by the office manager John Williamson and by the higher-ups Mitch and Murray who never appear in person. They are continually reminded that they should always be closing. They must dream about closing customers in their sleep. They are actually always closing because they are always thinking about closing, talking about closing, remembering their successful closings, and planning tactics for future closings of new prospects. Furthermore, they cannot be sure that the deals they close will stay closed. We see that buyers by law have three working days in which to change their minds. And many of them probably do, because it doesn't make good sense to buy land you have never seen. At one point Shelly Levene tells John Williamson, "A man is his job." If a man has a secure job that pays well and is socially useful, he can enjoy life and spend quality time with his family. But these men have fallen into a pit and can't get out. They are chronically depressed, overworked, and scared. They never have a moment in which they don't have at least one problem to worry about. Every time the phone rings it can mean trouble. Not only that, but they hate each other because they are all competing for some prize or just to hang on to their jobs. We pity all three of them, but Shelly Levene is the most pitiful because he is losing his Midas touch with advancing age. He is growing desperate and panicked, and these feelings create a poor impression on his prospects regardless of how he tries to hide them behind a mask of friendliness, cheerfulness, and supreme self-confidence. He is doomed, and his arrest for stealing the Glengarry leads only expedites his complete ruination.

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