Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 576
John Williamson, a man in his early forties, the office manager for a disreputable real estate company. He receives the blame for all the other characters’ problems and failures because he rates their sales and awards and then leads potential buyers to the more successful, thus creating a situation of better salespeople always getting the better leads. He appears incompetent and more concerned with office procedure than with sales. Roma claims that Williamson got the position because he is the boss’s nephew. Although he demonstrates an inability to string a customer along, Williamson is not above accepting bribes from his employees or acting ruthlessly. At the end, he catches Levene in his own boast and solves the robbery.
Shelley Levene, a desperate, failing salesman in his fifties. Levene becomes pathetic and foolish in his attempts to regain his salesmanship. Constantly referring to his past successes, he blames his present state on bad luck and Williamson’s bad leads. His one moment of triumph becomes a cruel joke when Williamson delights in telling him that his large sale was to a notoriously insane couple whose checks are no good and about whom Williamson warned everyone through memos. Worse, Levene also falls victim to Dave Moss’s scheme and robs the office. At the end, Levene is the play’s only pathetic figure whose luck has failed him.
Richard Roma, a caricature of the sleazy, smooth salesman; he is in his early forties and is slick and self-absorbed. Completely amoral, he demonstrates the technique by which he has become top salesman of worthless Florida property when he cons James Lingk with a deceptively sincere-sounding contemplation on everyone’s need to seize the moment. Roma is the salesman that Levene must have been in his prime. Later, in the middle of the robbery investigation, Roma teams with Levene to dissuade Lingk from backing out of the sale. Ironically, at the end, Roma, impressed by Levene’s recent sales but ignorant of Levene’s confession, displays his own greed and gullibility when he tells Williamson that he wants a share of whatever Levene has coming to him, or he will tell the boss of Williamson’s incompetence.
Dave Moss, a bigoted salesman in his fifties, always looking for an angle to get leads. He sees no problem in resorting to robbery yet is sharp enough to seek out weaker colleagues to perform the actual crime. Persuasive and threatening, he tests his plot on George Aaronow but succeeds with the more desperate Levene.
George Aaronow, a gullible salesman in his fifties who acts as Moss’s foil in the robbery plot. He questions the ethics of the act but also is interested in its success. Surprisingly, he does not succumb to Moss’s threat and perform the crime. It is not clear if Aaronow saves himself because of any stronger sense of morality or simply by luck.
James Lingk, a man in his early forties who is a caricature of a naïve customer. He is suckered by Roma and saved by his wife. He provides the comic counterpoint to the play’s ending by apologizing to Roma for being forced by his wife to cancel the deal.
Baylen, a rough policeman in his early forties who ineptly investigates the office robbery. He provides opportunity for a variety of jokes on police incompetence by the other characters.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 729
George Aaranow is a fairly stupid salesman in his fifties who seems to be sucked into Moss's scheme to steal the leads and sell them to a competitor. In Act II, Aaranow displays the only loyalty shown in the play: he keeps his mouth shut about Moss.
Baylen is a police detective in his early forties. He is in the ransacked office in Act II to investigate the burglary and, although we never see him in direct questioning, he is rough enough to outrage even the tough salesmen.
Shelly Levene is a man in his fifties, formerly a hot salesman and now down on his luck. He needs a sale to survive. In Act I, scene i, Levene pleads with his office manager, Williamson, for good leads and agrees to bribe him but doesn't have the necessary cash. Levene is so strapped for cash that he even has to worry about having enough to buy gas. He is the only character about whom we learn anything of his outside life: he lives in a resident hotel, he has a daughter, and the daughter is apparently dependent on him and perhaps is even in a hospital. When we see him in Act II, he enters the ransacked office crowing about having just closed a sale for eight parcels. He tells a detailed story of how he forced the buyers, two old people with little money, to close. In his new-found glory, he also berates Williamson for not being a man, for not knowing how to sell. In his excitement, he lets slip the fact that he knew that Williamson had not turned in Roma's contract for the Lingk sale the night before, and Williamson perceives that Levene could know that only if he had been in the office. He knows that Levene did the burglary and, in spite of pleading by Levene, turns him in to the police.
James Lingk is a customer to whom Roma sells a parcel of land. Lingk's wife sends him back to cancel the deal, thus leading to an impromptu improvisational scene between Roma and Levene and a blown deal because of Williamson's intrusion. Even after he knows that Roma lied to him, Lingk apologizes for breaking the deal.
See Shelly Levene.
Dave Moss is a bitter man in his fifties who sets up a deal to sell the stolen leads to a competing firm headed by Jerry Graff. In Act I, scene ii, he seems to have trapped George Aaranow, a fellow salesman, into doing the actual burglary. In Act II we see an outraged Moss after he has been interrogated by the police. He says that no one should be treated that way and decides to leave for the day. Later, in an attempt to save himself, Levene tells Williamson that it was Moss who set up the burglary.
Richard Roma, in his early forties, is the"star'' salesman of the office. In Act I, scene iii, he seems to be talking to a friend, but it turns out that he is merely softening up a stranger, Jim Lingk, for a sales pitch. In Act II we learn that he did close the deal but sees the deal fall through due to the ignorant intrusion of Williamson. Near the end of the play Roma seems to want to team up with Levene, but even that apparent show of unity is just another scam.
John Williamson, a man in his early forties, is the office manager and is in charge of giving the "leads" to the salesmen. This gives him great power. He gives the best leads to those who have the best sales records, and the only way to sell is to have the best leads. In Act I he agrees to give top leads to Levene if Levene pays him fifty dollars per lead and twenty percent of his commissions. In Act II, Williamson is with the police detective, Baylen, questioning the salesmen. Williamson does intrude into the scene being played out by Roma and Levene in an attempt to keep Lingk from cancelling his contract and, in his ignorance, manages to spoil the deal. Both Roma and Levene attack him verbally and Levene lets slip the clue that allows Williamson to expose Levene as the burglar.
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