The Language in Glengarry Glen Ross “That’s ‘talk,’ my friend, that’s ‘talk.’ Our job is to sell”
Glengarry Glen Ross is a play written by David Mamet. The setting is in a real estate office. The characters are people who are working there and they are selling properties (land). Their job is to sell, and they are paid for doing that. “In a program note to Glengarry Glen Ross the English critic John Lahr refers to what he called the “hilarious brutal sludge of [Mamet’s] characters’ speech,” and in this outrageous attempt by Moss and Aaronow to make distinction between talking and speaking we see the playwright expertly deploying such sludge.” The language which characters use according to this critic is hilarious and in the same time brutal. With other words, it could be explain as funny and cruel.
The mixture of funny and cruel makes this play different from the others because that is probably the language Americans use in a real estate office and in their everyday life. This play is all about characters that are just talking and talking. The characters are not doing any physical job, what they do is telling lies in order to sell property. It could be said that they are men of words not men of action. The language that is used in the play can be divided in two types: the uses of language when the salesmen are talking between themselves and the uses of language when they are selling properties to a potential costumer. Concrete examples will be given further.
The use of language when the characters speak between themselves is mostly in fragments, short and unfinished sentences. They insult each other a lot and they also curse and swear a lot. One possible reason because they use short sentences, fragments and curses, is to portrait the real Americans speaking. Another reason might be that the characters interrupt each other a lot and that merely results is fragments and unfinished sentences. One particular example is the conversation between Moss and Aaronow. Moss is starting to talk about something and then little by little unfolds and the conversation gets sense. He uses the language so good that will make Aaronow to accept his proposal to steal the leads. Aaronow is mostly repeating what Moss is saying. This again shows when Moss talks it makes Aaronow to do something.
Another example might be Roma who in a conversation with Williamson and he is insulting him so much “ROMA [to Williamson] You stupid fucking cunt. You, Williamson … I’m talking to you, shithead … you just cost me six thousand dollars. [Pause.] six thousand dollars. And one Cadillac. That’s right what are you going to do about it? What are you going to do about it, asshole. You fucking shit. Where did you learn your trade. You stupid fucking cunt. You idiot. Whoever told you could work with men.” (p2538) From these lines is obvious how angry Roma is and by using these sentences he insults Williamson.
Roma is not the only one who insults his coworkers Moss also do that. “MOSS [Simultaneously with “trip”] And fuck you. Fuck the lot of you. Fuck you all. [[Moss exits. Pause.]” (page 2529) That is the way how Moss is saying goodbye. “WILIAMSON I have and my job is to marshal those leads …LEVENE Marshal the leads… marshal the leads? What the fuck, what bus did you get off, we’re to fucking sell. Fuck marshaling the leads. What the fuck talk is that. What the fuck talk is that? Where did you learn that? In school? [Pause.] That’s “talk,” my friend, that is “talk.” Our job is to sell. I am the man to sell. I’m getting garbage. [Pause.] You’re giving it to me, and what I am saying is it’s fucked. LEVENE Yes. [Pause.] I am. I am sorry to antagonize you. WILLIAMSON Let meLEVENE … and I’m going to get bounced and you’re WILLIAMSON … let me … are you listening to me…?LEVENE Yes” (page 2511) From these lines it could be concluded that there are couple of sentences which are fragments and it is obvious that Levene interrupts Williamson and do not let him to finish what he wants to say. It is also obvious that Levene curses a lot he uses the word fuck even seven times. What Levene might be saying is that their job is to talk.
Marshaling the leads is not talk, but saying lies in order to sell property is talk. With talking to people, Levene can make them buy property same as Moss who by talking to him and using clever sentences he made Aaronow to accept his proposal and broke in the office. Yet it could be concluded as was said in the introduction there is a difference between talking and speaking. So, if Levene can sell property by talking, do that means that he can not sell property by speaking? Maybe it is because the connotation of the words in sentence.
If talking refers to chatting and flattering and speaking refers to the process of saying words without any connection then this difference is logical. The use of language between the salesmen and their potential costumers is different then the language the salesmen use when they talk to each other. There is one example when Roma talks to Lingk, but that is not the only example. In the screen play there are two scenes one is when Levene is calling someone with a proposal to sell them a property. There is also one scene when Levene visits a potential costumer and tries to make him to invest his money in buying a property. The language that Roma uses is well crafted, yet he still uses words such as fucking and bullshit but rather to emphasize what he is saying not to insult Lingk. “Roma …all trains compartments smell vaguely of shit. It gets so you don’t mind it. That’s the worst thing that I can confess. You know how long it took me to get there? A long time. When you die you’re going to regret the things you don’t do. You think you’re queer…?“ (page 2522) Roma starts the conversation with simple words and builds a real picture that anyone can believe it. As the conversation is going on Roma changes the topic and unfolds little by little what his actual interest are. That is like planting a seed and makes it to grow not by watering but only by speaking.
There are just four lines where Lingk speaks and all the other words are spoken from Roma. “Stocks, bonds, objects of art, real estate. Now what are they? An opportunity. To what? To make money? Perhaps. To lose money? Perhaps. To ‘indulge’ and to ‘learn’ about ourselves? Perhaps. So fucking what?” (page 2522) These words are the first that unfolds what Roma actually wants to achieve. He is saying something and then answers to his own questions. Roma uses the words fucking and bullshit to emphasize what he is talking about. In this conversation and connotation the meaning is not offending and he is not insulting Lingk as was the case when the salesmen were talking to each other.
All in all, the uses of language in Glengarry Glen Ross as was described before is different and varies when the salesmen talk to their potential customers and is different when the salesmen talk between themselves. That is the way people talk in a real estate office, which again might show the reality and what someone is ready to do in order to get what they wants in in this case that is Levene.