Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross is a timeless American play because it is the mirror of the Capitalist world. People sell and buy all the time: property, goods, stories, own bodies and even the soul. All it is needed is a good salesman. I remember reading somewhere that character Roma “could sell even cancer” and I found this remark abusive, absurd, funny, sad but truthful, all at the same time. The fact is that there are people out there buying into the most absurd stories because they truly wish to believe in something, that their life’s savings have been invested in a good property deal, that scientology liberates the mind, that accepting an invitation to a luxury hotel in Tahiti by a nearly stranger is not the same as prostitution, that a 50 years old wine (regardless of the year) is better than a 2 year old one (despite coming from an excellent year), that it is perfectly justifiable to spend 5000 dollars in a dress which judged by the fabric’s quality shouldn’t cost more than 200… Customers make excuses and the salesmen acknowledge and use their chance to do what customers expect them to: sell.
What Glengarry Glen Ross is concerned, it came to be based in three liberties: political, economic and sexual. Related to the political and economic aspects, author and American Theatre expert C.W.E. Bigsby acknowledged that this is a play about power. I agree because the one who sells has the power over the one who buys. It is a warzone and salesmen see themselves as warriors in the battlefield, so their political right and liberty to defend themselves in an aggressive world is to become dominant. Sell or die! They fight back the ruthless Capitalist system and whatever scheming they do (like planning a robbery, betraying colleagues, or acting and telling lies to convince a customer) it is acceptable for the fatal nature of the game: There are no second chances in a world with little human values like compassion or friendship because the weak have make way for the strong.
Watching or reading this play it is easy to forget that are women exist. Where are the sexual liberties, if not even racial? The right to property almost ignores that fact that women are entitled to it, too. Roma, for example, treats his client’s wife as if she was nothing more than a good housewife, cooking beautifully in the kitchen where she belongs, but not in the middle of a property negotiation, especially about to ruin one. By his speech Roma tries to put Lingk’s wife in her ‘place’ because he understands that reality is different, although he fights the idea that women gain more power every day.
Mamet may sound misogynist for not having a single saleswoman in the salesman team and for using words like cunt or pussy to insult a man, but I assume that he might have wanted to show that it is an aggressive, reckless and unkind world out there, a masculine savage jungle where feminine grace and understanding don’t belong. It goes without saying that his picture of women is restricted (perhaps more an affront) since a woman can, too, be aggressive and fight for her life. Carol, in Oleanna, is a good example of this (and still a Mamet’s play). Nevertheless, the no-regrets approach is essential to advancement in life. In a man’s world there is no place for feminine sentimentalism, so that is why Carol acted like a man, turning the game to her advantage and making John pay.
Glengarry Glen Ross was written in the 1980s but it is relevant to date because business ethics will never change, I am afraid, but just become worst. The liberties of the customers stop when the liberties of the salesmen start.
Luciana B. Veit