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Private Enterprise As Manly Character in American Theater: Death of a Salesman and Glengarry Glen Ross

America has lengthy prided itself on being a land of chance. Because the fifteenth century, pilgrims have flocked to American shores, urged onward by the thought of creating funds, off the wealthy lands and sources available right here. As time has gone on, this image of America as an enormous funds pot has not changed or diminished. A single can locate mentions of jobs and the economy spackling each and every newspaper, most casual conversations, and all all through the media. And due to the fact, all through much of history, men were the major breadwinners and job holders, masculine identity and occupation have become joined at the hip. To quote Shelley Levene from Glengarry Glen Ross, “A man’s his job,” (Mamet 75). In a sense, he’s correct the world today puts a lot of stock in how men make their income, and doesn’t look interested in significantly else. This interplay among male identity and capitalist economy has been explored very regularly and properly in American drama, specifically in dramatic plays of the final 100 years. The mix of money and gender dynamics serves as the foundation for numerous of theatre’s greatest plays, which includes Death of a Salesman and Glengarry Glen Ross. What each of these dramas explores concerning this theme is largely diverse, but all highlight what happens when capitalism and masculine identity intersect, and how this affects the characters, as well as the globe they live in. In this essay, I will argue that by linking their manhood to their organization achievement, the males in these plays have produced a volatile and in the end emasculating world, which operates to the lengthy-term benefit of no one particular.

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller perhaps most famously tackled this concern, in its portrayal of Willy Loman, a after-effective businessman now falling on difficult times in his old age. Willy holds strongly to the thought of operating tough and applying oneself to be profitable. Via a series of monologues by other characters and illuminating flashbacks, nevertheless, we see his own life does not stick to this contour at all. His brother Ben became considerably richer than Willy simply by stumbling upon gold throughout 1 of his adventures. And regardless of years of operating hard and allegedly producing the organization funds, Willy is nonetheless canned by his new boss because he can’t make sales like he utilized to. In brief, the business doesn’t care about Willy as a individual, an associate or a friend– just a indicates to make income. In postwar America, when sales have been sky-rocketing and it looked as even though the income would never ever run out, this harsh portrayal of a enterprise oriented system was considerably needed. As the war ended and America’s new higher tech factory method started placing hundreds of thousands of returning GI’s to operate, several workers who’d survived the depression and the war faced unemployment —a thought not far from the minds of audiences when the play was first performed (Grant 54). Death of a Salesman served as a reminder that what we did when we were up inevitably still hurt us when we came crashing down once more. When Willy was creating sales, he cheated on his wife, was caught by his son, and was, by and large, an aggressive and seldom-present father. But when variables beyond his control finish up putting him out on the street, he has to spend for that. He has to live in a house with the son whom he failed, the wife he betrayed, and the other child he perpetually neglects. The trappings of achievement can occupy him no longer.

This story mirrors that of America early in the 20th century. In the course of the 1920s the country’s economy reached celestial heights, as stock speculation and the rise of on-credit getting place the nation deeply in debt. Then came the crash, and crime and poverty ran amok. In the course of the profitable 1940’s and 50’s, the play and Miller’s characters all seem to urge us to be cautious of the fickleness of economic wealth. Charley sums this up nicely in a quote in the final scene: “You don’t realize: Willy was a salesman. And for a salesman, there is no rock bottom to the life. He don’t place a bolt to a nut, he do not inform you the law or give you medicine. He’s a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and shoeshine. And when they begin not smiling back—that’s an earthquake… Biff: Charley, the man didn’t know who he was,” (Miller 138). Most people produce their identity by what they leave behind: kids, marriages, items they built or produced, or memorable feats or achievements. This notion ties into what the Greek thinker Epicurus referred to these as “Natural desires.” The idea is that specific things you can only desire to do for a set quantity of time ahead of you are happy. If, say, one eats a wonderful quantity of meals, a single will grow full and grow to be tired of consuming. But Willy does not grow tired. He sells smiles and shoe shine, dreams and concepts, factors which he may possibly not use, the image of a particular person that he could not be. Epicurus calls these “Vain desires,” things produced up completely by humans. “Vain desires consist of desires for energy, wealth, fame, and the like. They are tough to satisfy, in element since they have no organic limit. If one particular desires wealth or energy, no matter how a lot one particular gets, it is often attainable to get more, and the far more a single gets, the more a single desires,” (Cassier, 3). Willy Loman spent his entire existence questing following these issues, and as he was gradually deprived of the capability to sell by the changing organization climate, started to suffer the symptoms of withdrawal, which eventually ended in his demise. Cash, it seems, purchased him only modest quantities of happiness, and even those have been largely exaggerated by his thoughts. But it undoubtedly did buy him a sizeable share of misery.

Yet despite this, Willy puts a considerable quantity of stake in the idea and image of the operating man. Throughout the story he still looks back with reverence on his older brother Ben, treating him with a love and respect he doesn’t show to any person else in the play. Never will he endure an attack or even a doubt about Ben, and his empire and his wealth. “The man knew what he wanted and went out and got it! Walked into a jungle, and comes out, the age of twenty-a single, and he’s rich!” Willy says at one point (Miller 41). Stick-to-it-edness and ambition, then—two traditionally masculine virtues—are all it requires to succeed professionally. And yet he himself, despite years of dedication, is now being gradually cast aside, having in no way accomplished the financial status of his relations. His manhood, his specialist reputation, are worth nothing at all to these about him, and so he must attempt to express his masculinity in other methods. A lot in the very same way Swaino attempts to compensate for his lack of cash and good results with lurid sexual encounters in Modest Engine Repair, Willy attempts to recapture some of his virility through anger, toughness, and a sexual tryst of his own. Ultimately, this just pushes him farther down into a hole of misery. Willy has always been dazzled by these striking images– of Ben the adventurer, of Dave Singleman and his green slippers. Actual life by no means quite measured up. Linda and Charley go over this at the play’s end, following Willy’s funeral. “Linda: I can’t realize it. At this time specially. Very first time in thirty-5 years we had been just about cost-free and clear. He only needed a tiny salary. He was even finished with the dentist. Charley: No man demands only a little salary,” (Miller 137). Willy has worked his complete life towards some best of salesmanship, which he got when he met a stranger in a hotel room, and which convinced him to pass up an opportunity to travel the planet with Ben. When he pays off his debts but loses the job that occupied him, he is forced to come to terms with the emptiness of his life. This drives him eventually to kill himself– to end his life in exchange for some measure of handle and dignity. Willy labored extended and difficult beneath the delusion that his trade was what defined him as a man, but in the end it was what destroyed him.

This identical principle is on display, albeit in a different manner, in David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, a play about small-time genuine-estate agents in Chicago. The plot centers about two of the characters—later revealed to be Moss and Levene—robbing the enterprise of leads, which would let them, in theory, to make far more sales. It seems nearly comical for two individuals to commit a federal crime in order to advantage professionally—after all, it’s just a job. But for the guys in this play, it is not just a job. It is almost everything. We by no means see them do anything not straight related to work: They do not see their households, play games, hang out with old friends, absolutely nothing. Even when they engage in friendly banter or go out to eat, it is all for the objective of acquiring ahead at perform. Take, for example, the restaurant scene involving Ricky Roma and James Lingk. In this exchange, Roma appears to be sharing his life philosophy with a person he just met: “Stocks, bonds, objects of art, real estate. Now: What are they? (Pause.) An chance. To what? To make cash? Probably. To drop money? Possibly. To “indulge” and to “learn” about ourselves? Probably. So fucking what? What isn’t? They’re an opportunity. That’s all. They’re an occasion,” (Mamet 49.) Roma seems to be promoting an almost existential point of view here to his newly acquired companion: Don’t let events and things in life define you, due to the fact they themselves do not have meaning. It is up to the individual to choose what they imply. And however, after sharing this freeing and liberating viewpoint with Lingk, Roma then launches into the following: “I want to show you something. (Pause.) It may mean nothing to you… and it might not. I do not know. I don’t know any longer. (Pause. He takes out a little map and spreads it on a table.) What is that? Florida. Glengarry Highlands. Florida,” (Mamet 50). All of this rambling speech has led up to a sales pitch. Roma, despite advocating freedom from labels and higher ideas that hold us anxious and worried, is himself slaving away for the capitalist business institution. In a way, this is the ultimate horror. Roma’s identity as a cost-free spirit—if it is his true identity and not an affectation—has been twisted and perverted to serve the wants of the organization. Roma can preach about viewing all issues as mere opportunities, but at the finish of the day, he can only do so as extended as he’s high up on the board. Those are his two choices: staying on the board or starving. He is a slave to the sales figures, and even his totally free-bird persona has become an instrument of accruing capital.

Even these characters’ most simple relationships, the ones we see, anyway, are there solely for the purpose of obtaining ahead. Practically every single line of dialogue the a variety of salesmen utter is for some self-centered finish. What appears like a relatable series of interactions in between Moss and Aronow exactly where they complain about their boss and their job is actually an try by the former to sturdy-arm the latter into helping him case the joint and make off with quality marketing leads. Roma’s monologue to Shelley exactly where he tells Levene he admires him and that they need to be partners turns out to be a ploy by Ricky to steal cash from the senior salesman. Living in this cutthroat business globe for so lengthy has corrupted their capability to empathize and befriend one particular another. By the end of this play, even these characters–whose careers, lives, and self-worth have been annihilated–still come off destroyed in their personal way. For these characters, the really act of speech is just a indicates to a financial end. They are wholly consumed by their occupations. Every single encounter they’ve had, everything they’ve done, every single friendship they’ve made, are just a way to cash in, win a automobile. If you can not monetize it, in this world Mamet makes for us, does it actually matter? Perhaps this is why, in act two, Roma gets so outraged when Moss values his personal dignity over Levene’s accomplishments. Funds is really all these characters have, their creating of it and losing it. A single of the salesmen is literally known as ’The Machine’ in a seemingly positive way. When Moss starts behaving as although there’s anything far more essential than money—say, his rights—Roma gets angry, since if funds is not paramount, what do their lives imply?

Much more evidence of this can be observed in the disparity in how Shelley and Williamson treat every other. In the first scene, Levene is entirely and utterly humiliated by Williamson more than and over again, and is forced to go by means of various stages of obsequious behavior to try and get the leads he demands to maintain his job. In order to even achieve access to the decent leads, he has to offer a massive portion to Williamson, who keeps raising the price just to watch Levene squirm. And Levene, as he’s low on the board, is forced to take this indignity: “John. (Pause.) Listen. I want to speak to you. Permit me to do this a second. I’m older than you. A man acquires a reputation. On the street. What he does when he’s up, what he does otherwise…. I mentioned ‘ten’ you said ‘no.’ You mentioned ‘twenty.’ I mentioned ‘fine,’ I’m not gonna fuck with you, how can I beat that, you inform me?…Okay. Okay. We’ll… Alright, twenty %, and fifty bucks a lead. That’s fine. For now. That is fine,” (Mamet 24). When Shelley can’t sell he has to bend over and do what ever Williamson desires. Contrast that to his attitude right soon after he closes what he believes to be a big deal: “Why need to the sale not stick? Hey, fuck you. That’s what I’m saying. You have no thought of your job. A man’s his job and you’re fucked at yours,” (Mamet 75). The issue is, even though, as Levene eventually points out, Williamson cannot fire him, not on, as he calls it “an $80,000 day.” These characters, who they are, how individuals view them, and what they can do, are completely defined by their ability to make income. And, as Mamet tries to show us, it’s a fickle, rigged system. One exactly where capabilities and great organization practices are not half so essential as arbitrary figures, and exactly where, in the finish, both salesman and buyer endure.

And with their identities as men continually either denied them or beneath attack, these characters have to re-enforce this image through hostility, insulting a single one more, and attempting to humiliate co-workers. In her essay “Every Fear Hides a Wish: Unstable Masculinity in Mamet’s Drama,” Carla J. McDonough examines this ferocity’s roots.A lot more than anything else, characters such as Teach, Edmond, and Levene are concerned with their identities as males. They are driven by a sense of powerlessness, for which they seek to more than compensate, and they labor under a require to establish their identities in the face of actual or imagined challenges to their manhood,” (McDonough 196). Levene and the other salesmen in the workplace are so hostile because their lives could be utterly destroyed by receiving a poor lead, or by possessing a client pull out at the final second. They have no manage more than their work or livelihoods, which they think about, and which we the audience are led to think, constitutes an enormous portion of their lives and sense of self. But they can conceal this apoplexy and insecurity if they act vicious, tear one yet another down with lies and insults and jabs, which make them really feel just a small bit powerful. Significantly like how Willy concealed his personal self-loathing and sense of failure by his excessive faith and devotion to a misremembered previous, the salesmen in Glengarry Glen Ross hide under an aggression with out anchors and with an endless number of targets, which, just as in the Loman household, only tends to make their circumstance less tolerable and much more hard. As a outcome of these two colliding forces, masculinity and company, we end up with a gray location, a turbid concoction half testosterone and half tender, which governs more and more of American society.

Capitalism and economic good results are a means of self-identification that the guys in these plays use, mainly, as a surrogate for what they can not have: really like, happiness, friendships, or a lasting legacy throughout time. But the industry is a fickle master. Accomplishment runs in streaks, and far more usually than not, when the very good luck runs out, it leaves a nasty scar behind. Of course, this does not apply only to characters in plays. Soon after all, do not companies, armies, countries right now nonetheless exploit the planet for all it’ll give them, get massively in debt trying to monopolize markets, and in short, exert themselves far beyond their reach? Does not America court destruction with each and every new war, new bailout? Maybe what these playwrights imply for us to take away from their perform is not so significantly the awareness of all the tiny tragedies that hide on each street corner, but rather a bigger view of the impending tragedy we still have time to avert. What happens when the world starts acting like Willy Loman? What happens when it gets as desperate as Shelley Levene? Will it, as well, do something morally dubious just to keep above water? Or, like Mr. Loman, will it end itself with a bang?

Operates Cited

Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. New York: Viking, 1949. Print.

Williams, Grant. “Death of a Salesman and Postwar Masculine Malaise” Arthur Miller Journal (eight:1) Spring 2013, 53-68,109.

Cassirer, Ernst. “Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.” Web Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.

Mamet, David. Glengarry Glen Ross: A Play. New York: Grove, 1984. Print.

McDonough, Carla J.. “Every Fear Hides a Want: Unstable Masculinity in Mamet’s Drama”. Theatre Journal 44.two (1992): 195–205. Web…
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