The second scene of the tripartite first act of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross appears to start just as suddenly as the first scene ends, taking place in the same setting, the action simply cutting from Levene and Williamson across to Moss and Aaronow. This is typical of American writers of the time, and Mamet does not tell us many physical aspects of the scene, leaving much of the setting as minimal or complex as the reader/actor wishes.
The quick change of action leads into the fast pace of the scene itself, in which we see Moss and Aaronow talking about the situation at the real estate office, where they work, that the two men at the bottom of the ‘board’ are going to get fired. This fast pace is emphasised by the use of the many ellipses in the scene, creating a realistic, harried conversation between the two characters:
Moss Polacks and deadbeats
Moss Deadbeats all
Aaronow …they hold on to their money…
Moss All of ’em.
They, hey: it happens to us all
Aaronow Where am I going to work?
These opening lines to the scene give a clear indication to the personalities of the characters. Aaronow appears to not be able to hold the conversation, and is clearly the more anxious of the two, and Moss, although his language also appears disjointed, it is less so than the language of Aaronow, and we begin to see immediately the relationship between the two characters. These opening lines also introduce the realistic theme of racism into the play. The use of the words “Polacks” and “deadbeats” reflects the feelings of the time towards foreign races in America, and this is continued moments later in the scene, when they begin to talk about Indian clients:
Aaronow I’d never try to sell an Indian
Moss You get those names come up, you ever get ’em, ‘Patel’?
Moss You had one you’d know it. Patel. They keep coming up. I don’t know. They like to talk to salesmen. (Pause.) They’re lonely, something…
Here we see Moss’ prejudices against Indians, used here to try and console Aaronow, to persuade him that the reason for his bad sales is due to the Polish people and the Indians that they have been given to sell to. Moss uses these groups of people as a common enemy between himself and Aaronow, in order to convince him that they are comrades, that he is on his colleague’s side. Moss continues to win Aaronow’s trust, convince him of their friendship, by agreeing with him and creating another common enemy in the company owners, Mitch and Murray (“You know who’s responsible…It’s Mitch. And Murray”). Moss also gains confidence from Aaronow by complaining about the sales contest:
Moss For some fuckin’ ‘Sell ten thousand and you win the steak knives…’
Aaronow For some sales pro…
Moss …Sales promotion, ‘you lose, then we fire your’… No. It’s medieval…it’s wrong. ‘Or we’re going to fire your ass.’ It’s wrong.
Although it seems that Moss’ complaints are reasonable, considering that the employees have seemingly just been told about the contest, and were given no warning, it soon becomes clear that he is simply gaining confidence for selfish purposes. He does, in fact, want Aaronow to steal the premium leads from the office that night, so that they can sell them in order to keep their jobs. Moss manipulates Aaronow in yet another fast-paced, frenzied conversation, in order to convince him that it is he who must steal the leads, and he alone:
Moss Yes. It is, George. (Pause.) Yes. It’s a big decision. (Pause.) And it’s a big reward. (Pause.) It’s a big reward. For one night’s work. (Pause.) But it’s got to be tonight.
Aaronow You have to steal the leads tonight?
Aaronow You’re, you’re saying so you have to go in there tonight and…
Aaronow I’m sorry?
Here we see how Moss manipulates Aaronow, beginning by addressing him using his forename, George. Whereas the use of the surname would assert his authority over Aaronow, by using his forename Moss, yet again, creates a false impression of comradeship. He then goes on to use emphatic repetition in order to ensure he has Aaronow’s full attention. The words which are repeated are also very important: the repetition of “big” and “reward” continue Moss’ persuasion and help to emphasise his apparent feelings about how huge the situation really is.
Another common theme of contemporary American literature we see throughout the play, and particularly in this scene, is the theme of the American Dream. Throughout the twentieth century, there has existed an ‘American Dream’, an idealistic vision of fairness, equality and the idea that hard work brings success. In this particular scene, we see the American Dream represented by the figure of Jerry Graff, a character that we never actually get to meet:
Moss Look at Jerry Graff. He’s clean, he’s doing business for himself, he’s got his, that list of his with the nurses…see? […] He goes out and buys. He pays top dollar for the…you see?
Moss So Graff buys a fucking list of nurses, one grand […] and he’s going wild.
Aaronow …he is?
Moss He’s doing very well.
For the characters in the play, Jerry Graff epitomises everything they want to be; successful, rich and working for themselves, without the fear of being fired if they aren’t at the top of the board. However, the dream never becomes more than just that: a dream, and this harsh reality begins to come through in this scene, where Moss tries to persuade Aaronow to commit the crime by enticing him with the ideal that is Jerry Graff – being like him, then a job with him, when it transpires that Moss hasn’t actually ever talked to Graff about the ideas he has. Instead, he simply confuses Aaronow by first abstractly denying that any crime is really going to be committed, during a part of the conversation where the difference between ‘speaking’ and ‘talking’ is discussed:
Aaronow Yes. I mean are you actually talking about this, or are we just…
Moss No, we’re just…
Aaronow We’re just ‘talking’ about it.
Moss We’re just speaking about it. (Pause.) As an idea.
Here we see how Moss cleverly twists the conversation so that it, technically, could never have happened. If it was just an idea, if they were not really ‘talking’ about it, but simply ‘speaking’, he cannot be linked to crime after it has happened. This conversation continues, as disjointedly as the rest of the scene, until both Aaronow and the audience are just as confused as each other, until we learn Moss’ true intentions: he wants Aaronow to commit the crime of robbery, alone, and not turn him in. After ensuring that Aaronow wouldn’t turn him in to the authorities, Moss proceeds to reveal that he would not help Aaronow if he was in the same situation, claiming that even if the robbery isn’t committed by Aaronow, he is still an accessory.
When asked why, he proceeds to claim “because you listened.” In this emphatic ending to the scene, we see how Moss has now asserted the fact that he has complete power over Aaronow, and the differences between ‘hearing’ and ‘listening’ immediately come to mind, and links are made to the somewhat proleptic conversation beforehand. Whereas if there was a chance that Moss would be affiliated with the crime, they were simply ‘speaking’. Now that there is no way Moss can be linked, Aaronow becomes an accessory because he ‘listened’, perhaps considered as the parallel to ‘talking’. After this we must ask ourselves: are we all affiliated to crimes, just by ‘hearing’, if actually, somebody can claim we were ‘listening’?
Cite this essay
Glengaryy Glen Ross – Act 1, Scene 2. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/glengaryy-glen-ross-act-1-scene-2-new-essay