Glengarry Glen Ross
by David Mamet
Analysis: Plot Analysis
Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.
Chinese Food for All
Act 1 is all exposition. Mamet doles out bits and pieces of information in each scene that will all make sense in the final Act.
We jump right in with Williamson and Levene. From them, we get a sense that there is tension in the air, and it's all about getting on the board for the sales contest and about the leads:
LEVENE: The Glengarry Highland's leads, you're sending Roma out. Fine. He's a good man. We know what he is. He's fine. All I'm saying, you look at the board… he's throwing… wait, wait, wait, he's throwing them away. (1.1.2-6)
We also learn that Levene is desperate:
WILLIAMSON: The hot leads are assigned by the board. During the contest. Period […] Either way. You're out. (1.1.143-148)
Scene 2 gives us Moss and Aaronow and the idea that something big might just happen. These are guys who are tired of just sitting around and taking what they're given from the higher-ups. These are guys who, like Levene, have gotten desperate:
MOSS: Someone should stand up and strike back.
AARONOW: Someone should hurt them.
MOSS: Someone should rob the office. (1.2.199-214)
Ah, Ricky Roma—smooth, crafty, Ricky Roma. Through Roma's hypnotic ramblings, we get a sense of why he is the guy atop the leader board even before we recognize his scheming. He talks and talks and talks about all kinds of stuff, but we ultimately find out that he's making a sales pitch to Lingk:
ROMA: I'm glad to meet you, James. I want to show you something. It might mean nothing to you… and it might not. I don't know. I don't know anymore. (Pause. He takes out a small map and spreads it on the table). What is that? Florida. Glengarry Highlands. Florida. "Florida. Bullshit." And maybe that's true; and that's what I said: but look here: what is this? This is a piece of land. Listen to what I'm going to tell you now: (1.3.95-105)
And yes, Act 1 does end with a ":"
Breaking and Entering
Things start to heat up in Act 2. At the top of the Act, we learn there's been a break in—the leads are gone, and tensions are high. The cops are on site, and the guys are not pleased, though things get a little brighter when Leven enters—he's turned his luck around and made a big time sale. So the leads got stolen—at least Roma's contract is safe and Levene is back on the board. Things are going to be all right… even if Moss has taken off for the great state of Wisconsin.
Then Lingk shows up and you can feel the invisible noose tightening. Things are too tense and too out of control. Levene is pretending to be Roma's big-spending client, Roma's spinning lie after lie—there's just no way it can hold, people, no way.
Say it A'int So, Shelly
Shelly "the Machine" Levene is back, baby. But don't take our word for it—let him tell you himself:
LEVENE: I'm back… I'm back, this is only the beginning. (2.1.1142-1143)
He made a sale, he's railing on Williamson, and he's his old self. Not so fast, Levene—Williamson catches him on what amounts to a verbal technicality. That's right—Levene "the Machine"—outed himself as the thief without even knowing it. Oops. The mystery is solved, though things are looking pretty grim for Levene.
Levene tries to cut a deal with Williamson, and for a hot second it looks like Williamson might go for it, but we know Williamson by now, and we know that he's kind of a jerk. He demands Levene go talk to him and the cops. "Why?" Levene asks Williamson, by which he means Why won't you let me off the hook?
WILLIAMSON: Because I don't like you. (2.1.1168)
Ouch, right? There's only one thing to do after reading a line like that. Listen to "Cold as Ice" by Foreigner (preferably live).
Always Be Eating
Levene is heading in to talk to the cops. Unaware of what's going down, Roma tells Williamson that he's going to take fifty percent of Levene's commissions from here on out. It turns out that for all his talk about wanting to work with Levene, Roma really just saw another way to make more money for himself. After that, there are only two things left to cover: the leads and that good old Chinese restaurant:
AARONOW: Did the leads come in yet?
AARONOW: (Settling into a desk chair): Oh, God, I hate this job.
ROMA: (Simultaneous with "job," exiting the office): I'll be at the restaurant. (2.1.1244-1250)
That's it—that's the last line of the play. Levene might be going off to jail, Moss has fled, and the whole office is a mess, but Aaronow still needs the leads, and Roma is going about business just like he always does.