Postmodernism: The Big Picture, and Reading David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross

 

Throughout the second half of the semester we have considered literary representations of postwar America that move toward and exemplify postmodern critiques of mainstream conformist values of this era, from conventional gender roles and sexuality to racist, sexist and heterosexist social structures and institutions.  In various ways, all of the authors we have read (Allen Ginsberg, Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, Frank O’Hara, John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, Toni Morrison, Thomas Pynchon, and David Mamet), deconstruct and expose the underside of self-confident, conformist American prosperity in this era, and parody or revise traditional literary techniques in order to do so.

 

Early in our readings, with Lowell and Ginsberg and Plath, we encountered a new frankness about mental illness even among members of privileged classes, suggesting that all is not well with the status quo, and that resistance to conformity–not fitting in–can contribute to mental illness.

 

In Pynchon, we encountered deep skepticism about our capacity to make sense of the complexities of contemporary life, except through conspiracy theories or with a newly limited sense of self. In Ginsberg, Morrison, and Mamet, we encounter critiques of racist and sexist social structures and profound questions about the health and viability of the traditional nuclear family, democracy and the capitalist system.

 

Though the degree of postmodern experiment varies in these texts, we can see them all as deconstructing grand narratives and insisting on indeterminacy, sometimes with a darkly humorous skepticism as well as pathos.

 

Our last postmodern reading is Glengarry Glen Ross, a play by one of the most talented American playwrights of the postwar era. If at all possible, try to watch the film this week, as well as reading the play. It’s quite captivating.

 

David Mamet was raised in a Jewish neighborhood on the South Side of and in a suburb. His mother was a school teacher, his father a labor lawyer.  Both sides of his family came to Chicago in the 1920s, as immigrants from Eastern Europe. Mamet began acting as a child. His parents divorced before he reached adolescence. He studied at Goddard College in Vermont and worked at odd jobs afterward, including a period in the merchant marines. His first play, Lakeboat, was staged in 1970 in Vermont. He returned to Chicago in 1973, where his plays Sexual Perversity in Chicago and American Buffalo were produced and won several awards. He moved on to the New York theatre scene, began writing screenplays in the ‘80s, and moved to New England in 1991.His screenplays include Glengarry Glen Ross (which won the Pulitzer Prize as a play), House of Games, and Oleanna. He also wrote the screenplays for The Untouchables, Hoffa, Malcolm X, and Wag the Dog. He has also written for television (e.g., The Unit).

 

Mamet has a keen ear for colloquial idiom and dialogue, and a deep interest in constructions of masculinity and competition within capitalism. In his article, “ ‘Always Be Closing’: Competition and Discourse of Closure in David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross,”  Jonathan Cullick argues that, “In Mamet’s real estate office, the most powerful commodity is not land; it is language.” He divides the language used in the play and film into two types of discourse: “communal” and “competitive.” He defines communal as “transactional, comprised of speech acts that communicate and invite responses. It is a language of mediation, negotiation, and cooperation-an open discourse” (23). Competitive discourse is “adversarial, the language of manipulation, deception, and self-interest” (23). Obviously Roma is the most effective user of competitive discourse, but he doesn’t use it all the time, and it’s interesting to think about why.

 

In your blog response, address questions 1 and 2 and your choice of question 3 or 4 (so a total of three questions).

  1. When do characters use competitive discourse, when to they use communal, and why?
  2. When are the characters acting? What other roles are they playing? When are they being “themselves”? From their behavior, can we define the codes of masculinity they follow?
  3. Who, in the end, is playing by the office rules? What are the rules, anyway, for success in the real estate office? How are they defined?
  4. If we were to call this play (and film) postmodern, what grand narratives are being deconstructed? How? In what other ways does it seem postmodern?
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55 Comments

  1. The salesmen use communal discourse when they are in conversation with each other. This occurs when Roma and Levene talk, and essentially puff each other up, in reflection of the success of their past sales. They essentially rehearse and reenact the dialogues of their sales, and work with each other in these performances to achieve the most successful result. Additionally, Aaronow and Moss’s conversations are probably the best example of communal discourse; at one point, Moss excitedly describes to Aaronow the failings of the company to instill effective conditions for sales. Aaronow echoes much of Moss’s sentiments and leads him along in the conversation, eventually leading them to discuss stealing the leads and selling them to Jerry Graff. Aaronow is suddenly wrapped up in the deal when Moss quickly transitions from simply “speaking about” the act of robbery to actually conspiring to rob the firm. The salesman use competitive discourse when they are trying to make a sale. The best example of the use of competitive discourse occurs when Roma is talking to Lingk, and nearly convinces him to refrain from asking for his deposit back. Lingk admits that he is not good at negotiating, as Roma is well aware, telling him that “the deal is dead,” even though he fully intends to continue to save the sale. With Roma’s powers of persuasion, their interaction likely would have led to him doing so, had Williamson not intervened.

    Again, Roma is the best actor in the play whose work we actually witness, as he transforms from the conniving salesman to the sympathetic friend in his attempt to win over Lingk. He begins to offer life advice in relation to Lingk’s decisions, which he claims are independent of his wife’s, and appears to be genuinely concerned with Lingk’s affairs. The most brutal and vulnerable show of honesty in the play occurs at the point of Levene’s unravelling, and his earlier, brief indications of his need to support his daughter. Crestfallen from the revelation of the uselessness of his sale, and unable to bribe Williamson for his silence, Levene breaks down, and mutters vague responses to Roma’s oblivious cajoling. From this, we can determine the salesmen’s need for empathy as derived only from their need to extract something from another person, ironically. The men only pretend to be selfless and compassionate when it makes them appeal to a potential buyer, until they eventually must reveal themselves as equally vulnerable beings. Roma calls Williamson a “fairy,” as if to suggest a lack of masculinity, because he cannot perform in a way that will benefit the sale that Roma has just made (and lost). Roma further emphasizes the intended purpose of Williamson to help the salesman in their work, as they’re supposed to be a team, even though each man appears to be working for himself.

    The rules of the office seem merely to rest on the will to exercise complete ruthlessness. Roma tells Williamson that the number one rule of the business is to never speak during the sale unless you know “the shot,” or unless you can enhance the likelihood of the sale closing. For example, Levene is able to do this when he pretends to be Roma’s client after Lingk comes into their office. The salesmen’s primary objective is to obtain valuable leads, and then to close sales. This is done by any means necessary, as the men are not averse to illegally dealing in leads, as we see in Moss and Levene’s cases. However, by the end of the play, Williamson would also seem to be a character playing by the office rules, as he reveals Levene’s crime, (and effectively ruins his career and life) both because he’s disrupted the office and for the mere reason that he doesn’t like him. This is unsurprising, as Levene has just spent the last half hour insulting him. When Levene pleads mercy by again mentioning his daughter, Williamson simply responds, “Fuck you,” a curt testament to his lack of concern.

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    1. I agree that Roma is the best person to look at. Roma does flow easily fro salesman to friend. He has no trouble making that transition. I agree that the men only act vulnerable to close a deal but that their true feelings do eventually have to come out. I like how you included that Roma calls Williamson a fairy.

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    2. Roma does seem to be the most effective communal speaker, he is very engaged in supporting other salesmen, while also retaining his own pride. Moss is the most competitive, hence it is his plan to steal the leads. The conversation between he and Aaronow is interesting because it signifies a shift in communal discourse to competitive as he is manipulating Aaronow into not only participating in the theft, but into actually doing it for him.

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    3. I do agree that sales can become ruthless because everyone wants to make the sale. Making sales symbolizes a part of their manhood. It is crazy how if you don’t make the sales you become overwhelmed and frustrated that a you can take it on someone. Like Roma is furious that his sales are not doing well and starts yelling. good job on your response.

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    4. I like that you pointed out Williamson as a character who seems to understand and abide by the laws of real estate by the end of the play. Its funny having Roma and all the others exclude him from their definition of what “dying breed” men are only to have Williamson show their very same cold and cut throat attitudes despite his position away from the sales competition. Besides his “fuck you”, Williamson had answered Levene when he asked why he wasn’t helping with a simply “because I don’t like you”, so it seems although he’s out of the center of the game, his “just because” attitude mirrors that of the floor’s best salesman like Roma and gives insight on how he got his stable position in the company.

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    5. I agree entirely with your assessment of the ruthlessness of the office. It seems as though if you cannot be ruthless, while straddling the line of the law so as not to be arrested or found guilty of any wrongdoing, you are bound to fail at the company. For instance, you could argue Aaronow is the least ruthless and morally ambiguous of the salesmen and where is he on the totem pole of sales numbers? The very bottom.

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    6. I agree that the salesmen use communal discourse whenever they talk to each other. This is especially true when they reenact their sales together. I like that you point out that they are only selfless and compassionate when they are going after a sale. That goes with the always be closing mentality that they have.

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    7. I only watched a performance of the play, but if I recall, Roma did seem like the best one. At most, he seemed like maybe the most honest of all of the characters. I thought most of the characters weren’t particularly the best people in the world. I think that there’s a lot of dishonesty in the office, but he was probably the one who didn’t seem like he had any ulterior motives.

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    8. Ruthlessness does seem to be the name of the game in this realty firm, but I don’t think Williamson is the one who is most playing by the firm’s rules, but rather Roma because of said ruthlessness. Immediately after the detective called Levene into the office for questioning, Roma claims his sales with barely a thought for his coworker. Roma is the best salesman, after all.

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    9. I agree. The curt discussions leave little room for empathy and little regard for feelings. The characters last out at one another in a way that denigrates their beings to the level of animals. Their abandon to close sales disallows them from ever experiencing normal human attitudes. Instead the men are driven to the point of derangement with their obsession to close sales.

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  2. 1. An example of competitive discourse and communal discourse in this play would be in Act I Scene II, when Moss is trying to convince Aaronow to break into a office. Moss comes off as intimidating and manages to convince Aaronow to go through with it. It’s competitive because this scene is very aggressive and masculine. At the same, it is also communal because these two are salesmen who understand what the other person is talking about.

    2. One example of the characters “acting” is when Aaronow acts a burglar to steal the Glengarry leads from some other real estate agency. He has to break in and steal the Glengarry leads for Moss even if he does not want to do it. Usually Aaronow is a man that has low self-esteem and lacks confidence, but contains a conscience. From his usual character, Aaronow lacks the stereotypical masculinity that men enjoy showboating.

    3. The rules of any real estate agency are to make the sale in anyway possible. A prime character that is capable of such thing would be Roma. Roma is a fast-talking, ruthless, immoral kind of guy that can talk anybody into anything. A man that speaks in grand, poetic soliloquies and closes the deal seems to be playing well by the rules.

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    1. I like how you used Aronow as your example. He is just acting as a burglar because he is weak and cannot stand up for himself. I agree that he lacks the stereotypical masculinity that all these other men seem to have. I also agree that Roma is a good character for the person who is always making the sale no matter what.

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    2. The real estate agency is itself a corrupted character. The men that are operating it are constantly attempting to configure a deal where they benefit at the suffering of the client. They also feel that they are owed extra benefits for just doing their job.

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    3. I do agree that the rules is for salesmen to compete with each other for sales. Roma is a ruthless because he doesn’t like how is sales are going and he takes his frustration on others. He just want to win the sales contest and he is furious things are not going his way.

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    4. I hadn’t considered Aaronrow “acting” during the burglary but I like that you used It as your example because upon further consideration I’m sure he must have had to pull through a completely different persona to even consider the crime and go through with it without succumbing to his usual nerves.

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    5. I like your example of Moss using masculinity to coerce the admittedly more feminine (or at least less masculine) Aaronow into committing a crime he didn’t really want to commit. It is just another example in the play of how masculinity reigns supreme in the world in which these characters inhabit and that if you do not embody those same ideals of masculinity, you will be left behind, treated like dirt, and in Aaronow’s case, taken advantage of.

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    6. I agree with your use of Aaronow as a character that is acting. He has to portray the stereotypical masculinity he lacks in his normal, everyday life. I also agree that there is really is only one rule in the real estate world and that is to close the deal.

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    7. I also used Act I Scene ii for the examples of communal and competitive discourse since both were so obvious within that scene. To me, it seemed like communal discourse was a source of relating t the other person while the competitive discourse is used to create power, especially in Moss’s case.

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    8. I love that you said that real estate companies are usually all this way. Anything to make a sale! Some people will take it above and beyond while others will try to play by the rules, like Roma. I also really love that you used Aaronow as your example for the acting since he can’t stick up for himself.

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  3. The salesman use competitive discourse when they are trying to close a deal, “always be closing”. For example when Roma is sitting in the restaurant talking to Lingk he comes off as just trying to have a conversation but the whole time he is actually trying to tell him something. They have communal discourse when they are talking to each other, even though at times they are being competitive because they are all competing for the best leads.
    An example of when the characters are acting is when Roma is talking to Lingk when he comes into the office. He puts together this whole fabricated story involving Levene, who is pretending to be someone else as well, that way he can keep his sell with Lingk. Roma is acting like himself before Lingk walks in when he is asking Levene about his sale.
    I think that Roma is the one left playing by the office rules. He is one of the people that was not involved with the robbery and he is still mainly concern with closing his deals. When Lingk walks into the office his main concern is to make sure that he keeps this deal. Willimanson ends up blowing this for him which leads to him finding out Levene robbed the place. But since Williamson blew a deal he isn’t following the rules of the office, which I believe would be to do anything to get the sale because for a real estate office that is the most important thing to do.

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    1. I never considered that the salesmen closing the deal would be considered competitive discourse so I like that point. And also Roma is the only one left playing by the office rules. Roma’s only concern is with closing which is the mindset of a salesman.

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    2. I like your example of competitive discourse of “always be closing” because he is constantly drilling that into his workers in a conversational manner yet he is also being direct and demanding. The attitude that real estate agents have is: “where’s the money at” and so by being so casual yet direct about it, he is subliminally manipulating Lignk.

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    3. I agree with you, Roma seems to be the one who plays by the office rules the most. His main concern is closing deals especially his deal with Lingk. Roma is so competitive that he would do anything to make a sale even if it includes role playing and making up stories.

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    4. Their mantra “always be closing” is a departure from the normal constructs of civil discourse. This mantra embodies an assertive, one-sided mindset in which the desires and needs of the person being sold to are secondary to the potential commissions and succeeding praise. To always close means to always identify with the prerogative that selling is paramount.

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  4. 1. The characters in Glengarry Glen Ross use competitive discourse fairly often. The entire mood of the play is competitive in nature. The men are in constant competition with each other. The most poignant example of this competitiveness is in the office after the robbery between Roma and Moss: “… Dave, you know you have a big mouth, and you make a close the whole place stinks of your farts for a week…” (71). This quote is referring to the attitude Moss has, and all of the men have, when it comes to another salesman making a sell. There are few examples of communal discourse between the men. The best example is when Lingk, Roma and Levene are interacting, here Levene is aiding Roma in his diseption of his client.
    2. It is almost as if the characters are constantly acting. While there are aspects of “themselves” that is seen throughout the play, these men are in constant falsification of their true intentions. When it comes to Moss trying to get Aaronow to steal the leads for a minuscule price or when Roma is deceiving his client, these men are constantly acting. They exhibit masculinity through their sales. They see their manhood tied to their dollar value.
    3. In the end the only character who is playing by the office rules is Williamson. While he does involve himself in some scandalous dealings with Levene at the onset of the play, he does however remain true to his job and “protect the leads.” He is also the one who catches the thief at the end.

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    1. I didn’t consider Williamson as the one playing playing by the rules, but I can see how you got to that conclusion. Also technically, all of the characters are acting because they are all salesmen. A salesman is always constantly acting a certain way in order to close a deal. I only one who doesn’t seem to act is Aaronow and that is only possible because he lacks the backbone.

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    2. I agree with your interpretation of how the characters are constantly acting to receive the financial gains they are looking for. The deception that must go on in the meantime is a perfect example of how truly corrupt they are but will do anything in the face of profit.

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    3. I like your interpretation of the office rules as literal written and respectable law in which yes, Williamson is the only solid player. I had initially considered the rules an unseen law of thieving and trickery but your point of view is refreshing after assuming every character is following the rules of real estate by breaking the more general morality of a typical manhood.

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    4. I absolutely agree that the characters feel like they are acting the entire time. Despite that, I enjoyed the foul banter between them all, but I also enjoyed how Williamson was slightly cunning in the comparison to the other characters, and gets the upper hand in the end. I do not necessarily agree that there are any rules, however, and that Williamson’s subversion of the perceived rules is why he throws Roma under the bus and gets Levene arrested. At least, I assume he is arrested in the end.

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  5. 1.The characters use competitive discourse on Act one when Moss is trying to convince Aaronow to commit a robbery. Moss cannot not do it himself because he talks a lot and people would immediately suspect him. Aaronow does commit the crime and he later is threatening by Moss. He becomes a victim of Moss because Aaronow was a easy target in convincing Aaronow to do the dirty work. Later on, in the play he wants to make Levene his partner in crime, however he fails in his strategy. Moss gets unreliable people, so it is every man to themselves and he tries to exploit them before they do it to him.
    2.The characters are acting on Act two and they do it constantly. When Roma hears about the robbery he becomes furious and he demands on who did it. Roma is constantly yelling because he wanted to know who were the ones who stole the contracts. He wanted to know because he wanted to win the company sales contacts; however, Williamson reassumes him not to worry about the robbery. Roma tries to psychologically investigate who was the thief and suspects on Aaronow and he asks him, but Aaronow becomes nervous. Aaronow changes the subject that he is not doing well on the board and is frustrated. Masculinity is shown through the sales they do which they strongly are devoted to and want to win.
    3.Roma is the one who wants to go by the office rules because his sales got ruined and he tells Williamson that he planning to go and tell on him so he can get fired. The rules are that they have to do great on sales and they constantly have to compete with each other to be on the lead. Levene stops him and tells William is going to make something up, the characters threat each other so they wouldn’t confess on what really happened. The salesmen resent Williamson because they believe William doesn’t is cluesless when it comes to business, also feel threaten by him because his job is secured. Levene robbery backfires, and he has this strong desire to have a powerful role so he can insult Williamson, but in fact in the end Williamson strategize to destroy Levene on his sales.

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  6. As previously mentioned above, Roma is by the best character that uses competitive discourse. this type of communicative manipulation is seen in the exchange between Moss and Aaronnow in which the latter is essentially being strong armed into a situation he doesn’t want to be in. The emotion and power of the “competitive” aspect is easily felt and recognized but in a later example of this discourse between Roma and Lingk (where they discuss Lingk’s three-day time limit to renege on their contract) we see that a master of discourse marked by self interest and deception, does not always rely on heavy intimidation as his only tactic of persuasion. In this case Roma, reverts to a very simple method where he plays dumb and repeats Lingk’s understanding of the agreement in order to fill him with self doubt just long enough to make their contract binding.

    “Roma: I don’t understand.
    Lingk: That’s what they are. Three business if I wait till Monday, my time limit runs out.
    Roma: You don’t count Saturday.
    Lingk: I’m not.
    Roma: No, I’m saying you don’t include Saturday in your three days. It’s not a business day.
    Lingk: But I’m not counting it. (Pause.) Wednesday. Thursday. Friday. So it would have elapsed.”

    Essentially what Roma is attempting is to present enough confusion and doubt onto the situation that it will eventually invade and shake the certainty of the opponent.

    The characters are always “on” and acting when presented with situations potentially affecting their business. We see the switch between their authentic selves and the “men” they are in the office in Levene’s character who ends just as he begun the play; crying and failing. Most of the time he easily shook and molded by the will of the opponent, Leven is definitely not a power player though he desperately wishes he was. We see his acting after coming away from the deal with the Nyborgs where he describes a great “slumping” and he reiterates the act he has put on in order to procure the deal when in reality we see his true weak self come out as soon as he feels his placement in the company loosen beneath him. Concerning “what makes a man”, I think it has less to do with typical gender roles or the heart felt definition one would typically find with manhood such as responsibility and strength. Instead their definition is centered by the traits of the most successful. Roma for example is the best seller and the character who coins and mentions most the tragedy of men as a “dying breed”. So by his actions, success, and slim to none opposition by peers it seems manhood in this case is weighted by the ability to turn off emotional, reasonable, and respectful ties in favor of the ruthless machine that takes all it can unapologetically from its peers and customers.

    Roma, though from an outside perspective is unfair and follows no moral code, is the master of the laws in the real estate world. Very similar to the laws of what defines a man, these rules include taking advantage of any and everyone in the name of becoming more successful financially. We know this by the constant cross cons going on by any which character at anytime but no better example is the final con of the piece; Roma’s procuring of fifty percent of Levene’s earnings. Sure he plays nice and invites him into the “real” men’s club, all the while laughing knowing he has taken away half of whatever the poor soul makes, despite his standing position as top seller, Cadillac winner, and simple knower of Levene’s already poor state. The number one law of the real estate world? Get what you can, all that you can, whenever you can, however you can.

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    1. Roma was cunning, and in the end I was glad when Williamson cost him the deal with Lingk. Roma was too much of a onesided character, and too villainous in nature for me to feel anything but disgust for him. However, the way he treated Levene was interesting because his feigned support made Levene even more pathetic for not seeing through Roma. One thing I do not agree with many people about are that there are even rules. They may be unspoken rules that these characters follow, but we see them broken throughout the play when characters try to con clients or each other. The only rule I see of is to do anything to get ahead.

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  7. 1. Characters use competitive discourse when they want to get something from someone. Roma uses competitive discourse with his client Lingk by using Lingk’s insecurities to make a deal (page 50). Levene attempts to use competitive discourse to try to get better leads from Williamson in the beginning of the play, “I will close. John, John, ten percent. I can get hot. You know that” (page 23). Characters use communal discourse when they are talking among themselves in a way that does not involve self-interest. Roma and Moss talk about the sell that Levene made on page 66, “Roma: Guess what the Machine did? Moss: Fuck the Machine.” Roma invited Moss to engage in conversation by asking a question that did not have an underlying motive.
    2. I think the characters are acting when they are trying to make sells. They are willing to be dishonest to get what they want. Oddly enough I also believe they are acting when they are talking among themselves as coworkers. They seem to want to bet better than each other and have a need to challenge each other, “Moss: Hey, I don’t want to hear your fucking war stories… Roma: Fuck you, Dave…” (page 67). I think they are only being themselves when they are emotionally hurt, “Moss: Fucking cops’ got no right talk to me that way. I didn’tt rob the place…” (page 66).
    3. I think that it could be argued that Roma is playing by the office rules by playing dirty. The office seems to be corrupt, so Roma would be playing by those rules. It could also be argued that Aaronow is playing by the rules by not playing dirty, however that would fall more under societies rules and not the office rules.

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    1. I agree, the characters use competitive discourse only when they have something to gain and they use communal discourse when they are talking amongst each other. I also think that Roma is playing by the office rules because he doesn’t mind playing dirty to get what he wants.

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  8. Characters use competitive discourse when they interrupt one another, stop in the middle of sentences, complete other people’s sentences, and so on. During the first half of the play, most of the plot consists of interactions among characters.
    Levene: I’ll give you ten percent. (Pause.)
    Williamson: Of what?
    Levene: Of my end what I close.
    Williamson: And what if you don’t close.
    Levene: I will close.
    Williamson: What if you don’t close .. . ?
    Levene: I will close.
    Character’s use communal discourse when they are trying to elicit empathy and communicate or negotiate things with other characters. Levene is trying to sell land to customers and he simply lacks the status to do so unlike Williamson. He then tries to solicit empathy from Williamson and make him feel sympathy by using terms such as “want” “need” “give me” and “your help”.
    “Those guys lived on the business I brought in. They lived on it. . . Give me a chance. That’s all I want… I need your help.”

    Whenever a character is trying to make a sell they are obviously overly enthusiastic because they want to make a sale. Any salesman would tell you that the key is to never let a customer walk out empty handed and so the characters may seem a little nicer or a little more helpful to accomplish that. “Roma: I swear it’s not a world of men it’s not a world of men, Machine it’s a world of clock watchers, bureaucrats, officeholders what it is, it’s a fucked up world there’s no adventure to it. (Pause.) Dying breed. Yes it is. (Pause.) We are the members of a dying breed”. They are being themselves when a situation affects them personally.

    I think the overall message of the play is that success comes with playing dirty. “All is fair in love and war” comes to be true in this sense because the characters do not reach success until they realize that all bets are off when it comes to this “winning” attitude.

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    1. Your point about Levene using words like “want” and “need” when he’s trying to get leads from Williamson is interesting. It’s as if he’s being honest, but only to the extent that he’s after something. The men seem to only be honest with each other, but we see that even this has it’s limits (especially in Moss and Levene’s cases). I also agree with your final point about the message of success; all of the men definitely play dirty, and one could argue that the entire business is dirty, as they’re essentially selling cheap land and lying to potential buyers.

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    2. “All’s fair in love and war” definitely sums up this play very well. Levene and Williamson are probably the characters who interested me the most in the play. They’re definitely all sleazy in some sort of way, but how they all manage to get their own way is quite interesting.

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  9. 1. The characters use competitive discourse when they are trying to make sales and compete against each other. For example, in the beginning of the play when they are at the restaurant they are using competitive discourse because they are talking about how many sales they’ve made and leads they’ve gotten. The conversations are communal when they are talking amongst each other. Throughout the play they use communal discourse among coworkers because they curse at each other rather that speaking professionally.

    2. The characters seem to be acting or role playing when they are trying to convince customers to invest with them by buying land. The character who seems to role play the best is Roma. When Roma is talking to Lingk he pretends to have sold land to Levene who also role plays as a customer named Ray Morton. Lingk is there to talk to him about how his wife wants him to cancel the deal and Roma tells him “I’m sorry, Jim. I can’t talk right now. I’ll call you tonight” (Mamet 82). Since Roma knows why Lingk has come, he continues to make up excuses as to why he can’t talk to him. He does this in order to keep the sales deal he has with Lingk. Roma begins to show his true self after Lingk leaves and he tells Williamson “You just cost me six thousand dollars. Six thousand dollars. And one Cadillac” (Mamet 96). Roma also tells Williamson “Whoever told you you could work with men?” (Mamet 96). This quote shows that according to Roma, to be a real man you have to be able to play along with fooling customers.

    3. The one who plays by the office rules at the end of the play is Roma. He is the one who is focused on closing deals so that he can get the Cadillac. Also, he is unashamed of having to role play by scamming potential customers and even coworkers. As Levene gets arrested, Roma doesn’t do anything to try to help him. Instead, he is still concerned with his job. He tells Williamson “I GET HIS ACTION. My stuff is mine, whatever he gets for himself, I’m talking half” (Mamet 107). The rules for success in the real estate office are that you have to ruthless and immoral. It seems to be defined as survival of the fittest.

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  10. The most obvious use of both competitive and communal discourse is Act 1 Scene 11 when Moss and Aranow are discussing breaking into their building, stealing the leads, and selling them to a competitor. The communal side is when they are both simply discussing it, but the competitive discourse happens when Moss manipulates Aranow into stealing the leads for him without any compensation (Mamet 44). In this case, the communal is used to gain a sense of comradery within the men while the competitive is used to gain power.

    The same scene can be used to answer question 2. Moss is acting when using communal discourse and he shows his true colors when he manipulates Aranow to commit a serious crime. Moss draws attention to their lack of masculinity within their company by saying “you can’t fucking turn around, enslave them, treat them like children, fuck them up the ass” (Mamet 36). Here, masculinity is linked to their job performance, and once they stop performing as well, they lose some part of their masculinity.

    Roma seems to be the one still following the rules, at least for success. Once he realizes Levene might be getting fired at the very least, Roma makes it a point to say “my stuff is mine, his stuff is ours. I’m taking half of his commissions” (Mamet 107). Even as his coworkers is being questioned by the police, nothing confirmed yet, Roma is trying his best to give himself more of a chance to succeed at his job, though that means someone else going down.

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    1. I completely agree with the example you gave of competitive and communal discourse happens when Moss and Aaronow are discussing the plan of the robbery. As communal as it begins it ultimately ends up being competitive because Aaronow is intimidated by Moss and agrees to proceed with the plan to prove him wrong. Great response.

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    2. I like that you chose a different approach to the competitive and communal discourse. Most of our class selected the restaurant scene at the beginning of the story. I also agree with you when you said Roma was the only one who seemed to be following the company rules and playing a fair game.

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  11. 1. The salesmen in Glengarry Glen Ross switch between competitive and communal discourse quite regularly throughout the length of the play. One great example of the ease with which they can change the nature of their discourse for a given situation is the conversation that Moss and Aaronow hold when discussing whether or not the office should be robbed. Moss utilizes communal discourse to lure Aaronow into thinking they are simply having a friendly conversation, commiserating about the annoyances of the circumstances of their work. However, Moss is really engaging in competitive discourse; he is deluding Aaronow into becoming an accessory to the crime he has already decided to commit.

    2. It is safe to say that the salesmen in the play are all actors. In the film this is expanded on quite a bit, as we actually get to witness them attempting to make more sales; Levene takes on a “kindly old man” sort of role, luring his marks into what he frames as an important opportunity he is offering them, almost as a favor rather than a sale. Moss, as mentioned earlier, acts as a friendly coworker to Aaronow when his true intentions are much more selfish and sinister. Roma acts as a stranger simply musing on life’s mysteries and ambiguities to Lingk, but his true nature is, of course, that of a salesman and ultimately he does make his pitch. Even when Lingk attempts to renege on the sale, Roma remains an actor, claiming the “deal is dead” and that he is more concerned with Lingk as a person, which we as the audience know is untrue. Even Williamson, who seems separate from the salesmen, is an actor. He convinces Levene he will help him out, when, in perhaps the most evil act of the play, he actually sabotages him, simply out of a dislike for him as a person. It can be argued that these men are only acting as themselves, truly, when they are engaging in the act of berating one another. This is when their true nature is revealed, and it is not a pretty sight. The codes of masculinity they adhere to almost religiously dictate that they are to act a certain way and be treated accordingly, and when that treatment doesn’t follow, their reactions have a visceral genuineness that they otherwise never display.

    3. In the end, it seems the only salesman playing by the office rules is Roma. He is duplicitous without being overtly obvious, he is clearly the best salesman, and he wracks up the most numbers and thus the number one bread-winner for the company. And that seems to be what the rules themselves are defined by: make sales at all cost, always be closing, but never get caught. If you get caught, that is on you, but as far as the company is concerned, anything else is fair game.

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    1. i very much agree that the Roma is the only one who plays by the office rules, which leads him to close the most deals. And even until the end when the robbery occurred he still abides by them. Great response.

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  12. Competitive discourse is used in Glengarry Glen Ross, in Act I Scene II, wherein Moss and Araonow are discussing the robbery that later on is enacted. At first Moss brings up the conversation by simply stating that something bad should happen to the firm, and as it proceeds he admits that he been thinking/talking about it for a while. He persuades Araomow to be a part of the scheme and since he is lacks self-esteem he becomes intimidated and agrees. Communal discourse is also evident throughout the beginning of this conversation before it turns into competitive. It begins as communal because it’s a normal conversation but they both know what they’re inferring.

    The characters are acting when they are trying to close a deal, or when they really want something that makes them change their characteristics. This can be evident when Levene is asking Williamson for some leads to be able to close a deal. At first Levene acts out in an angered manner but when Williamson doesn’t cave, he throws out the old age card and how he has his daughter to take care of. This ultimately makes Williamson to reconsider under some circumstances.

    The only person that obliges by the office rules in Roma. The most important rule is to close the deals and protect the leads, which could be argued that he indeed does. He is the one who closes the most deals and even if it is part of a scheme in order for the deal to be close, is all that matters.

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  13. Competitive discourse is when characters use manipulative language. This can be seen anytime one of the salesmen are trying to close a sale. The one rule of real estate is to always be closing and the salesmen are to use any means necessary. This leads the salesmen to be deceitful and manipulative to close their sales. Communal language is more discussional. This can be seen anytime the salesmen are just talking to each other. It can, at times, be competitive but it is not outright manipulative. An example of this is Lingk and Roma when are just having a basic conversation about what they consider business days. The best example of characters acting is Aaronow when he must pretend to be a burglar to get the leads. He must display typical masculine characteristics which he lacks in real life. It is interesting that these traits that are typically seen as not masculine are what makes Moss think Aaronow is the perfect person for the crime. Aaronow is not outspoken about his dislike of the company, as Moss is, and that means no one will suspect him. The only real rule the real estate agents have is to always be closing. All the salesmen try to follow this rule but only a few succeed. Their success is based on their sales numbers and the money they make. Roma seems to be the one who is best at playing by these as he does do anything necessary to close a sale and make money.

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  14. 1. When do characters use competitive discourse, when to they use communal, and why?
    Communal discourse is used entirely by Levene, I would say, and the first scene reflects this mostly. Whenever he talks to Williamson in order to convince him to give him the leads, communal discourse is seen whenever he is negotiating with Williamson by offering that he will “give [Williamson] ten percent… of the end that he’ll close.” However, competitive discourse is then used by Williamson whenever he demands “one hundred bucks” from Levene in order to him to accept the bribe Levene is offering him. Both are used to get some sort of gain. Williamson, at the very least, is collecting some backup pay in case the deals don’t come through, while Levene is at least gaining the opportunity to get a lot more. It is very much in their self-interests.

    2. When are the characters acting? What other roles are they playing? When are they being “themselves”? From their behavior, can we define the codes of masculinity they follow?

    The characters definitely wear masks amongst one another. I don’t think Levene, for example, does any good job at hiding what kind of a scumbag he is. He definitely lies the most out of the cast, and that much is obvious whenever you see both the beginning and ending scenes. He’s quite a desperate person, really, and you can see that when he begs for the deals, and when he admits to his guilt whenever confronted with the pressure of him being busted by Williamson. Williamson definitely tells Levene this whenever he says “You’ve got a big mouth, and now I’m going to show you an even bigger one.” You could perhaps maybe say the codes of masculinity is “lie, steal and cheat” in order to succeed in life. We can see this in other characters in modern and postmodern texts as well.

    3. Who, in the end, is playing by the office rules? What are the rules, anyway, for success in the real estate office? How are they defined?
    There is definitely no one playing by the rules in the book. I would say that there’s no honest people in the work office; they are just trying to work around it. There’s the facade of honesty in the office, and I don’t think there’s any remorse for anyone in the building. Although we could probably see Williamson as the hero in this play, the fact that he took one hundred bucks from Levene should tell him that he isn’t free of being called scum either. I think for the most part, anyone would throw anyone under in the office, or feed them to the crows.

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    1. That is very true about the characters wearing masks, not only as themselves but also in their deals. I found it interesting that at one point their boss was telling them “who” to be, either the one coming in from town or the one posing as the head of the company trying to convince individuals to close the deals. Even when they were trying to close the deals they were making up stories attempting to manipulate the other individual.

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  15. The most obvious form of competitive discourse that I see in the play is when Roma goes on an entire monologue to Jim Lingk to try to make a sale. Jim explains later in the play that he doesn’t “have the power. The power to negotiate” (Mamet, 92). He falls for Roma’s nonsense filled spiel about life and seizing the moment. He specifically says, “What is our life? It’s looking forward or it’s looking bad. And that’s our life. That’s it. Where is the moment?” (Mamet, 48). He convinced Jim, but his wife tells him to end the deal, which is probably the right decision considering how despicable our characters are. Roma’s monologue does not offer room to respond, only think, which is why he was able to back Jim into a corner. I do not see many examples of communal discourse. When our characters are trying to make a sale, they do not let the people they are interacting with respond very much. However, it is prevalent when they are discussing matters with each other. When Moss and Aaronow are discussing robbing their own business, Moss slowly convinces Aaronow and lets him respond because Moss wants him to believe that he has some choice in the matter. Aaronow even tells Moss, “I didn’t ask to be” a part of this plot, but Moss says, “Tough luck, George, because you are” (Mamet, 45). The only time there is competitive discourse between these characters is when they are practically yelling at each other.
    The best acting comes from Levene. He slyly convinces Jim Lingk that he is someone named Ray Morton, the director of European sales with American Express. Levene and Roma’s act is an attempt to deceive Jim into believing Roma is successful and that he has nothing to worry about, but it still ultimately fails. This is the best, most outlandish form of deception the play offers, and Levene rolled with the punches to help his partner. This may not be much of an argument, but I believe they are always themselves. These characters are all about deception, and will do anything to get ahead, so even when they are playing someone they are not, they are themselves.
    There are no office rules. Every character does what they can to get ahead. Even Williamson, who informs that the check cleared, causing Lingk to run off and ruin Roma’s sale, is not innocent. He gets Levene to talk, and in ruining these two “partners” he helps himself get ahead. They are all ruthless, and short of murder, will do anything they can do get ahead of each other.

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    1. Your argument about the characters always being themselves is interesting; I think it goes along with the multifaceted nature of people. Especially in the film depiction, I thought that Levene went from a sincerely hardworking individual to an arrogant salesman to a crook, and it seemed to be natural at all points. Additionally, Roma’s speech to Lingk when he first makes the sale is so grandly vague that it’s hard to know whether or not he even believes anything that he’s saying. I would say that Roma’s the best actor, but Levene’s drastic changes throughout the play make him a viable candidate.

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  16. 1)
    The characters use competitive and communal discourse quite frequently through the play. Competitive discourse is evident especially in regards to the sales which make the men appear competitive with each other. When the men are speaking of their sales at the restaurant, their competitive nature shows itself. The way the men are pushing each other to their limits is quite hilarious to even read. In the following quote, the reader is able to see the competitive nature of the dialogue between Williamson and Levene: ” LEVENE Why?
    WILLIAMSON The leads are assigned randomly…
    LEVENE Bullshit, bullshit, you assign them… What are you telling me?
    WILLIAMSON …apart from the top men on the contest board.
    LEVENE Then put me on the board.
    WILLIAMSON You start closing again, you’ll be on the board” (Page 8). The men constantly challenge each other about whatever they are talking out, no matter the content. Their communal discourse shows when they are speaking with each other casually. They express themselves through whatever is on their mind at any given moment and don’t hold back any cursing at all.

    2)
    The men are acting in Act 2. Roma gets mad when he hears about the burglary and constantly tries to figure out who actually stole the contracts. To win the lead in sales, the men had to prove themselves to be worthy of producing the sales. The act feels like an investigation that the men are leading. Masculinity is shown by making the most sales regardless of who you have to cross or who you have to do wrong. The mend pride themselves on their sales and let them define who they are.

    3)
    I believe Roma is the only one playing by the office rules. He seems to be the only one who actually cares about the deals he is making in order to get the car. There are not many rules at the office other than make the sales, close on them, and after that it’s all on the agent. The company doesn’t seem to have morals but as long as they are making sales, that doesn’t really matter to them. Roma was dedicated to get his portion of the deals closed in the way he thought was most fair. If he played dirty, it was because everyone else was and in order to be the best he sometimes had to play their game.

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    1. I totally agree with how the characters use competitive discourse. It is always revolving around their sales, not only with the people they are trying to convince individuals to close the deal and make these investments.

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  17. 1. The characters tend to use, communal discourse when they are talking with each other and when they aren’t trying to get something out of another. An example of this when Roma and Levene are talking towards the end about getting lunch and Levene is being summoned by the detective. They are casually talking and are response friendly, unlike the competitive discourse that takes place.
    An example of competitive discourse is when Roma attempts to close the deal with Lingk. He does this to benefit himself and pressure the other individual into doing what he wants. He is constantly trying to manipulate him into closing the deal and attempts to not even let him speak. His main goal is focused on closing the deal so he can get his commission and the prize of having the most and largest sales.

    2.An example of the characters acting is when Lingk comes into the office the next morning wanting to cancel the deal and Roma and Levene put on an entire act to try and maintain the sell. Roma acts as if he is in the middle of making a sale with Levene. Before this, Roma is himself and by their change in character, it seems as if they do so to be the dominate male in their relationships inside the office and within their sales.

    3.Of all the characters, at the very end it seems that Roma is the one playing by the office rules. He does everything to try and close the deal, which means if acting needs to be done it is done. If a sale is what is needed to get the better leads, it is done. And if it falls apart, he jumps on the next lead to attempt and make the sale.

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  18. The characters in David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross do not communicate like normal human beings.  When they speak to one another, or to clients, their only prerogative within the conversation is to proliferate their individual situations and to operate aligned with their own motives.  During the berating in which Levene and Roma are harshly criticizing their boss for his inefficacy during a business phone call, one slip up by Levene tips his hand to Williamson: “You’re going to make something up, be sure it will help or keep your mouth closed.” (Mamet 83).  This allows Williamson to assume a posture of authority ultimately do Levene in.  The only time at which communal discourse is used is for the same reason; they only use words to manipulate and gain advantage over one another.  

    The characters are putting on an act when they’re conversing with clients.  The myriad lies and false statements they make in order to close deals is fascinating.  In the film, there is a part where Levene is holed in a telephone booth during a thunderstorm as he conveys to his client over the phone that he is on vacation with his travelling secretary somewhere tropical.  This tactic is to elicit the success and benefits of his job which also exercises great value of his product.  The only time they are themselves is when they are philosophizing to one another about the hardships and struggles of their profession.

    In the end, no one is playing by house rules.  It seems that there are, in fact, no house rules and that each employee operates to the constituencies of their own moral code.  The ultimate decider ends up being the numbers, which are unbiased and unflinching in their portrayal of the salesman’s ability.  All of the men are rampant and lawless when it comes to selling, however the one thing they can all agree possesses power are the numbers.

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