Glengarry Glen Ross
Act One, scene two
Moss and Aaronow, two other salesmen from the office, sit in a booth at the restaurant. They are complaining about the deadbeat customers to whom they have been trying to sell. Moss does most of the grumbling while Aaronow mostly listens and agrees. Aaronow, like Levene, is not on the board, and is in danger of getting fired.
Moss alludes to the structure of the sales contest taking place in their office: salesmen who reach a certain high sales mark win a Cadillac, those who reach a lower mark win a set of steak knives, and the two who fare the worst get fired. Moss suggests that a much better business model is that of Jerry Graff, who was once a salesman like themselves but who has now gone into business for himself. Aaronow mentions rumors that Graff's venture is not doing so well, but Moss refuses to hear more.
After making several points about the unreasonableness of Mitch and Murray's business practices, Moss suggests that someone should strike back. He declares that someone should rob the office, steal the Glengarry leads and sell them to Jerry Graff. Puzzled by the specificity of this supposedly offhand notion, Aaronow tries to determine whether they are "talking" about the robbery plan (as a purely intellectual, academic notion), or "talking" about it (discussing a viable plan that they intend to realize). Moss starts out denying that he has actually talked to Graff. Soon, however, thinking that Aaronow is receptive to his plan, Moss reveals that he has talked to Graff, and that the robbery idea is a very real one. He tells Aaronow that Graff will give them $5,000 to steal the leads, money that they will split evenly, and then Graff will give them jobs at his company.
Moss says that Aaronow has to be the one to actually commit the robbery. Moss cannot do it himself because, he argues, everyone would suspect him due to his constant badmouthing of the company. He will go out to the movies with a friend, providing himself with an alibi, while Aaronow commits the robbery. Moss explains to Aaronow that the robbery has to occur that night, because the leads are going to be moved downtown the next day. If Aaronow does not agree to this plan, then Moss will do it himself, and when he is caught, he will tell the police that Aaronow was his accomplice. Aaronow can hardly keep up with this line of reasoning. He cannot understand why Moss is suddenly threatening him.
Moss accidentally lets on that Graff is going to pay more than $5,000 for the leads, although Aaronow's take will still only be $2,500. Suddenly the men have gone from harmless "talking" to a situation in which Aaronow has to either commit a crime—and reap less than half of the reward—or face finding himself accused of that crime.
Mamet does not indicate whether Aaronow and Moss sit in the same booth that Levene and Williamson occupy in the previous scene. Again, the physical aspects of the production are not of great interest to Mamet. As in the last scene, one character, Moss, does the majority of the talking. Aaronow does little other than agree with Moss, ask him obvious questions, or simply repeat what Moss says. Moss starts out affecting a tone of camaraderie with Aaronow, telling him that his recent bad sales record is due to the leads he has been given: Polish people, deadbeats, and Indians named Patel come under particular fire. Identifying these external groups as the enemy, Moss intimates that he and Aaronow are comrades, in the same boat.
Moss continues this line of garnering confidence by complaining about the sales contest. Although Moss's complaints against the system are reasonable, it becomes clear later in the scene that he is fostering this us-against-them mentality for purely selfish reasons. Moss's railing against their measly earnings of a ten percent commission on sales proves ironic, as Moss is about to propose that Aaronow commit a robbery—on his own—for less than fifty percent of the profits. No great difference exists between Williamson sitting in the office telling them to sell and Moss sitting in the restaurant telling Aaronow to rob. Though Moss genuinely resents the system that traps them, he is nonetheless willing to replicate and perpetuate this system for his own benefit. Mamet illustrates that a capitalist system that thrives on competition ultimately demands that colleagues mistreat and exploit each other.
Jerry Graff, like Mitch and Murray, remains offstage during the play—the bosses reap profits from afar—so we have no direct information about him. It benefits Moss to sell Aaronow on the picture of Graff as their professional savior. But the fact that Aaronow has heard that Graff is not doing so well implies that perhaps Moss is supplying misinformation about Graff. We have no reason, really, to believe that Graff is any better than Mitch and Murray.
Mamet is famous for performing linguistic acrobatics, and we find one of the funniest examples of such acrobatics when Aaronow tries to figure out Moss's actual intentions about the robbery. Aaronow chases Moss in verbal circles, unable to pin him down on an exact definition of the word "talking." Salesmen make their livings by talking, so it is particularly amusing that they manage to get confused over what "talking" is. By the time Aaronow figures out that they are actually "talking" (discussing meaningfully), and not just "talking" (chattering idly), Moss has trapped him.
Moss gives Aaronow a clever excuse for why he cannot commit the break-in himself: "I've got a big mouth. (Pause.) 'The fucking leads' et cetera, blah blah blah ' " Suddenly, all of Moss's bluster at the beginning of the scene seems like a set-up. The more he badmouths the company, the more he proves he cannot be trusted to commit the robbery. He makes his big mouth work for his con. At the beginning of the scene, when Moss tries to gain Aaronow's confidence, his words seem heartfelt and angry. Later, however, when he tries to demonstrate that he talks too much, his philosophical spouting self-mockingly boils down to "'The fucking leads' et cetera, blah blah blah." Just as he can switch from "talking" to "talking" to trip up Aaronow, all of his other rambling can switch from meaningful to meaningless to suit the occasion.
Aaronow cannot understand how or why Moss has trapped him. When Aaronow asks, Moss's responds, "Because you listened." Moss absolves himself of all guilt for setting up his friend and suggests that the guilt lies with Aaronow for paying attention. Just as the definition of "talking" can be slippery, now Moss demonstrates that the definition of "listening" can be made to switch from harmless to criminal.
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