Glengarry Glen Ross Summary

David Mamet

Glengarry Glen Ross

  • Plot overview and analysis written by an experienced literary critic.
  • Full study guide for this title currently under development.
  • To be notified when we launch a full study guide, please contact us.

Glengarry Glen Ross Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet.

David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross is a 1984 Pulitzer Prize winning play about four real estate salesmen in Chicago who are trying, via a host of unethical acts, to dupe unsuspecting clients into purchasing undesirable property at inflated prices. The title refers to a pair of real estate parcels that are discussed in the play. Glengarry Highlands is a property that everyone is trying to sell, while Glen Ross Farms is land that characters refer to as having been very profitable for real estate agents a few years in the past. The play debuted at London’s National Theater in 1983 and had its American premier on Broadway at the John Golden Theatre the following year.

Levene, Roma, Moss, and Aaronow are four salesmen who work under Williamson, their supervisor. It is the end of the month as the action begins, and the higher ups in the company, Mitch and Murray, have decided to stage a sales competition. Based on achieving a certain monetary amount in sales, one of the salesmen will be awarded a Cadillac. The two salesmen who sell the least will be terminated. The levels they reach are marked on a chalkboard. Roma finds himself at the top of the list while the three others are struggling and becoming more and more anxious. Act 1 is set in a Chinese restaurant not far from the real estate office. Levene attempts to draw better sales leads from Williamson so as to have an edge over his competitors. As hard as Levene tries through, everything from showing off, to using flattery, to bribing, nothing convinces Williamson to go against the policies of the company.

As the act continues, Moss and Aaronow talk about the unfair nature of the company’s policies. They mention a former colleague named Graff, who started his own company, and of how his policies are better than those of Mitch and Murray. Moss suggests to Aaronow that they break into their bosses’ office, steal the best leads, and sell them to Graff. What seemed a daydream born of frustration actually is more real than Aaronow had thought, as Moss tells his coworker that he wants him to commit the break-in, and if he does not do it, he will do it himself, and if caught, will implicate Aaronow as having been part of it.

Act 1 ends with Roma sitting in a restaurant booth,delivering a monologue about how morality seems lacking in the world and how each individual needs to take responsibility for his own destiny in life. A man named Lingk is nearby and hears Roma’s disjointed oration;whether or not it is clear to him, he is drawn in and gives it much heed. As this scene reaches its conclusion, Roma is going into his sales pitch with the hope of turning Lingk into a real estate client.

Act 2 is set the following day in the real estate office. Someone has indeed broken into the office. Baylen, a police detective, is present and is questioning the salesmen. Roma enters and, having just learned about the incident, asks if the Lingk contract is one of the things that was stolen, because if it has been, that will take away his chance of winning the car. Williamson tells Roma that the contract has been filed. Meanwhile, Levene is elated when he enters the office. He has just closed a deal with an elderly couple named Bruce and Harriett Nyborg. This has, in his mind, convinced him that after a fruitless period, his acumen as a salesman has returned. Moss enters from a room in which he was interrogated by Baylen complaining about the treatment he received. Levene is bragging about his big sale, but Moss pays no attention to him. Roma defends Levene, while Moss accuses Roma of flaunting his success.

As Moss storms out of the office, Lingk enters. His wife has sent him to back out of the contract he signed with Roma. Roma quickly exits the scene pretending that Levene is a client he must rush to the airport. He tells Lingk he will meet with him on Monday to talk about their deal. Both of them know that waiting until Monday will make it impossible for Lingk to void the contract.Lingk is torn between wanting to honor his deal with Roma and dealing with the wrath of his wife. When Lingk realizes that Roma has been contradicting himself as far as whether or not the contract has been filed, he knows he is being duped and plans to contact the Attorney General. Roma has a confrontation with Williamson, whom he blames for ruining the sale. Williamson then puts the pieces together and realizes that from the things he knows about the filing of the contract, Levene has to be the one who broke into the office. Williamson reports Levene to Baylen, who arrests Levene.

The Los Angeles Times cited the verbal sparring between Levene and Roma as a key element in the success of Mamet’s play. “Language is the weapon of these hustlers, and the play is hijacked by the two characters who wield it with a license to dismember if not kill, Shelly Levene and Richard Roma. If they’re not snowing you, these guys are probably flaying you with some jagged shards of profanity.”