The play, set in the nineteen eighties, starts out with a competition in a real estate office where the properties are undesirable. The four men are faced with the contest where the leading two salesmen will win a Cadillac and the bottom two will be fired. It is evident early in the play that the salesmen are not that good at their jobs or they would leave and go to anther agency. The competition is symbolic of the underlying contest that are in every place of business. While it is not stated verbally, the rewards of the successful and the penalties of those who fail are always on workers minds.
While it is intended to bring out the best qualities of the four real estate agents, it only brings out their worst character traits. All four agents are similar in the fact that they are all driven by the contest in their workplace. They also want the personal gain instead of the betterment of the agency. They all need their jobs for monetary reasons, but they also need to prove their self worth. Failure is always something to be dreaded, yet, when it come to completely losing a job, it is proof to the others around that one is not worthy.
Fear of looking bad in front of others is a huge motivator for most people, and since coworkers are like family, one would not want to look bad to them. Each one of the four real estate agents from the play Glengarry Glen Ross handles this stressful situation in a different way. Ricky Roma is at the top of his business. He is appealing to his clients and intelligent in the ways of real estate. Roma is the most successful agent in his office, and there is never any doubt that he will be one of the top two agents, win his Cadillac, and keep his job.
However, the contest still has a negative effect on him. Roma tries his best to trick and intimidate his client, James Lingk, into purchasing property that he does not want and will ruin Lingks relationship with his wife. While Lingk is a weak character, who is bullied by his wife, it does not give Roma the right to push this purchase on him. Roma also lies to Lingk and informs him that he can not get out of his deal. The contest has not only motivated him to work hard for the company, but it has caused him to needlessly become a shady businessman. Aaronow and Moss are polar opposites.
Moss, like Roma is successful and will be one who will win the contest, unlike the meek and shy Aaronow who has never been successful and never will. He lashes out at his coworkers and hurls accusations at them. Moss has masterminded a break-in to Williamsons office to steal important leads so that he can sell them to competitors and threatened Aarnonow if he told. Moss was not originally a thief, but the contest has brought out the negative tendencies in him. After the break ins, Aaronow, finds it hard to keep from showing how nervous he really is in the robbery.
Even though he is innocent, he is fearful of his knowledge of the plan that Moss designed. Shelly Levene is a has been in every since of the word. When the play opens, he is in a Chinese restaurant with Williamson trying to persuade him to give the leads to him by reminding him of his past career. He has to deal not only with failure, but the embarrassment of fact that he used to be a great agent. It is difficult for him to face his coworkers because they know that he has the ability to be successful. It should not be a surprise when it is revealed that Levene is the criminal in the story.
He has already tried to bribe Williamson for the leads. Even though he was clever, he was not smart enough to keep from getting caught and paying the ultimate price by going to jail. He mentions the contents of a file that no one else would have known if he had been the one to break into the office. Glengarry Glen Ross is a play that can take place in practically work site. These four men behave as many that are in every work place. While they are there for similar reasons, the differences quickly emerge.
Mamet, David. Glengarry Glen Ross. New York: Grove Press. 1994.