Glengarry Glen Ross

by David Mamet

Start Free Trial

Discuss the characters Ricky Roma and Shelly Levene in Glengarry Glen Ross.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

When Shelly Levene comes into the office elated after having sold $82,000 worth of land to Bruce and Harriett Nyborg, Ricky Roma praises and flatters him, encouraging him to talk all he wants about how he closed the deal. The viewer believes Roma is sincere in his admiration of an older professional. However, Mamet plants one subtle clue in the dialogue between these men which should alert the viewer that Roma has an ulterior motive for giving Levene such attention and flattery.

Roma (To Levene): You were saying? (Pause) Come on. Come on, you were in the kitchen, you got the stats spread out, you're in your shirt-sleeves, you can smell it. Huh? Snap out of it, you're eating her crumb cake. (Pause)

Levene: I'm eating her crumb cake . . .

Roma: How was it . . . ?

Levene: From the store.

I think we have all had the experience of pretending to be interested in someone's anecdote when we're really not, when we really have something different on our minds, some different objective, something we want from the person we're pretending to listen to. But we can give ourselves away by showing an interest in some detail that is trivial and intrinsically uninteresting. This is what Roma seems to be doing with asking about the crumb cake. What does he care about the crumb cake? As a salesman, Roma knows that you often have to do a lot of talking about a lot of nonsense before you get around to talking about "closing." He just wants to keep Shelly talking. He is setting him up. Shelly might ordinarily become suspicious of all this feigned interest in his deal, but he is in seventh heaven because he has finally broken his losing streak--he thinks! He is back on the board. He is reinvigorated, rejuvenated, still rather dazed and ecstatic.

In the motion picture version of Glengarry Glen Ross, Ricky Roma, somewhat inexplicably, does not ask Williamson to give him half of Shelly's future leads, as he does in the play. This makes Ricky come across as a nicer guy. But in the play we can see that he is probably the most greedy and the most ruthless of all these greedy and ruthless salesmen. He proposes working with Shelly as partners, and then later, not knowing that Shelly is going to be arrested for burglarizing the office, he corners Williamson and reveals his true intentions.

"Well I'm going to worry about it, and so are you, so shut up and listen. (Pause) I GET HIS ACTION. My stuff is mine, whatever he gets for himself, I'm taking half. You put me in with him."

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial