Glengarry Glen Ross

by: David Mamet

Act Two, from its beginning to Moss's entrance

Analysis

Whereas Act One serves as a three-part prelude that introduces us to the characters and their motives, Act Two brings all of the characters together—along with a seventh, Baylen, though his presence is merely functionary—to interact in a more complex scenario. The structure of Act Two is much more conventionally "dramatic" than that of Act One: Mamet generates great suspense by concealing the identity of the thief and letting the audience wonder whether or not the thief will be caught. Whereas Act One holds our attention by drawing us into the world of the characters, Act Two uses the information we have from the Act One as a springboard to a more dynamic mode of storytelling.

The scene begins with tension. We know that a robbery has occurred and we know from Act One, scene two, that Aaronow is the most likely suspect. Mamet thus makes a kind of joke by opening the scene with Aaronow speaking an innocuous, nonsensical comment about mathematics. For the first time in the play, Mamet has us in suspense—we wonder if Aaronow has committed the crime, if he has been caught already, if he will be caught—but the characters' conversation is the height of banality. In doing so, Mamet reminds us that all of the drama, or lack thereof, is in the talking.

When Roma enters the scene, his hysterics stand in stark contrast to his smooth talking in the last scene. Roma is a breathtakingly good salesman, but when his guard is down and he is not trying to sell something, his simple greed and anger are animalistic. Seeing his outburst, we can appreciate even more what a fine performer he is. When he wants to, Roma can completely mask his natural anger, concealing it under the face and voice of a master salesman.

Aaronow mumbles about insurance, as if to pray that everything can be restored to normalcy. He is clearly nervous, but we cannot tell at this point whether this is because he committed the theft or just because he had foreknowledge of the robbery. We know that Aaronow has not turned in Moss yet, and that he is therefore hiding something even if he did not commit the crime himself.

Guilty or not, Aaronow finds himself in a double bind. When Roma tells Aaronow to just tell the truth because "It's the easiest thing to remember," we sympathize with Aaronow: he cannot tell the truth, and while perhaps Roma could get away with "selling" a lie to the police, we know that Aaronow is not nearly as good a salesman as Roma is.

When Levene tells the other salesmen about his triumphant sale to the Nyborgs, for the first time we hear Levene referred to by his nickname: "The Machine." Thus far in the play, Levene has been a failure, an embarrassment, but now that he seems to have found some success, he is "The Machine" again—a nickname that we surmise was given to him long ago, when he was still "hot." However, it is possible that someone gave the nickname to Levene sarcastically. Indeed, one of Levene's great weaknesses is a tendency to believe what he wants to believe: as we see later in the scene, he deludes himself to believe that the Nyborg sale will stick, and also succumbs easily to Roma's flattery routine. Whoever first called Levene "The Machine" may very well have been making fun of him, but Levene, in his desperation to feel successful, would not have noticed. Note that Roma, a far greater salesman than Levene ever was, does not have or need a nickname.