America has long prided itself on being a land of chance. Considering that the fifteenth century, pilgrims have gathered to American shores, prompted onward by the thought of making money, off the rich lands and resources available here. As time has actually gone on, this picture of America as an enormous cash pot has actually not changed or decreased. One can discover points out of jobs and the economy spackling every newspaper, a lot of casual conversations, and all throughout the media. And because, throughout much of history, males were the main income producers and task holders, manly identity and profession have become signed up with at the hip. To price estimate Shelley Levene from Glengarry Glen Ross, “A guy’s his task,” (Mamet 75). In a sense, he’s right; the world today puts a lot of stock in how guys make their money, and doesn’t appear thinking about much else. This interplay in between male identity and capitalist economy has been checked out quite regularly and successfully in American drama, especially in dramatic plays of the last 100 years. The mix of cash and gender characteristics works as the foundation for a number of theatre’s greatest plays, consisting of Death of a Salesperson and Glengarry Glen Ross. What each of these dramas explores concerning this style is mostly various, but all highlight what takes place when commercialism and manly identity intersect, and how this impacts the characters, as well as the world they reside in. In this essay, I will argue that by linking their manhood to their company success, the men in these plays have actually created a volatile and ultimately emasculating world, which works to the long-term advantage of no one.
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller perhaps most famously tackled this issue, in its representation of Willy Loman, a once-successful business person now falling on difficult times in his aging. Willy holds highly to the idea of striving and using yourself to be effective. Through a series of monologues by other characters and illuminating flashbacks, nevertheless, we see his own life does not follow this contour at all. His sibling Ben became considerably richer than Willy merely by coming across gold during among his adventures. And in spite of years of striving and supposedly making the business money, Willy is still canned by his new employer due to the fact that he can’t make sales like he used to. Simply put, the company does not appreciate Willy as an individual, a partner or a good friend– simply a method to generate income. In postwar America, when sales were sky-rocketing and it looked as though the money would never ever run out, this severe portrayal of an organisation oriented system was much required. As the war ended and America’s brand-new high tech factory system started putting hundreds of thousands of returning GI’s to work, many workers who had actually endured the anxiety and the war dealt with unemployment– a thought not far from the minds of audiences when the play was very first performed (Grant 54). Death of a Salesman acted as a tip that what we did when we were up inevitably still harm us when we came crashing down again. When Willy was making sales, he cheated on his better half, was caught by his child, and was, by and big, an aggressive and seldom-present father. But when elements beyond his control wind up putting him out on the street, he has to spend for that. He has to live in a house with the child whom he failed, the wife he betrayed, and the other child he constantly ignores. The features of success can inhabit him no longer.
This story mirrors that of America early in the 20th century. During the 1920s the nation’s economy reached celestial heights, as stock speculation and the rise of on-credit purchasing put the country deeply in financial obligation. Then came the crash, and criminal offense and hardship ran amok. During the lucrative 1940’s and 50’s, the play and Miller’s characters all appear to prompt us to be mindful of the fickleness of economic wealth. Charley sums this up nicely in a quote in the final scene: “You do not understand: Willy was a salesman. And for a salesperson, there is no rock bottom to the life. He do not put a bolt to a nut, he do not tell you the law or offer you medication. He’s a man escape there in the blue, riding on a smile and shoeshine. And when they start not smiling back– that’s an earthquake … Biff: Charley, the guy didn’t understand who he was,” (Miller 138). Many people create their identity by what they leave behind: kids, marital relationships, things they developed or made, or remarkable accomplishments or achievements. This concept ties into what the Greek thinker Epicurus described these as “Natural desires.” The idea is that certain things you can only want to do for a set amount of time before you are pleased. If, state, one eats a fantastic amount of food, one will grow complete and become fed up with eating. But Willy doesn’t weary. He sells smiles and shoe shine, dreams and concepts, things which he might not utilize, the image of a person that he might not be. Epicurus calls these “Vain desires,” things comprised completely by human beings. “Vain desires include desires for power, wealth, popularity, and the like. They are hard to please, in part because they have no natural limit. If one desires wealth or power, no matter just how much one gets, it is always possible to get more, and the more one gets, the more one wants,” (Cassier, 3). Willy Loman spent his whole presence questing after these things, and as he was gradually deprived of the capability to sell by the changing business environment, began to suffer the symptoms of withdrawal, which eventually ended in his death. Cash, it seems, purchased him only small amounts of happiness, and even those were mostly overemphasized by his mind. However it certainly did purchase him a considerable share of suffering.
Yet despite this, Willy puts a significant quantity of stake in the idea and picture of the working guy. Throughout the story he still looks back with reverence on his older bro Ben, treating him with a love and regard he does not reveal to anyone else in the play. Never ever will he suffer an attack and even a doubt about Ben, and his empire and his wealth. “The man understood what he wanted and headed out and got it! Walked into a jungle, and comes out, the age of twenty-one, and he’s rich!” Willy states at one point (Miller 41). Stick-to-it-edness and aspiration, then– 2 generally manly virtues– are all it takes to be successful expertly. And yet he himself, despite years of dedication, is now being slowly cast aside, having never ever attained the financial status of his relations. His manhood, his expert track record, deserve absolutely nothing to those around him, and so he needs to try to reveal his masculinity in other methods. Much in the exact same method Swaino tries to make up for his absence of cash and success with lurid sexual encounters in Small Engine Repair, Willy attempts to regain some of his potency through anger, durability, and a sexual tryst of his own. Eventually, this simply pushes him farther down into a hole of anguish. Willy has always been charmed by these striking images– of Ben the traveler, of Dave Singleman and his green slippers. Real life never rather measured up. Linda and Charley discuss this at the play’s end, after Willy’s funeral service. “Linda: I can’t comprehend it. At this time specifically. Very first time in thirty-five years we were almost free and clear. He just needed a little salary. He was even finished with the dentist. Charley: No male requires just a little salary,” (Miller 137). Willy has worked his whole life towards some ideal of salesmanship, which he got when he fulfilled a complete stranger in a hotel room, and which convinced him to pass up an opportunity to travel the world with Ben. When he settles his debts but loses the job that occupied him, he is required 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 control and self-respect. Willy labored long and hard under the delusion that his trade was what specified him as a male, but in the end it was what damaged him.
This exact same principle is on display, albeit in a different manner, in David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, a play about small-time real-estate representatives in Chicago. The plot centers around 2 of the characters– later revealed to be Moss and Levene– robbing the business of leads, which would permit them, in theory, to make more sales. It appears practically funny for 2 individuals to dedicate a federal criminal offense in order to benefit professionally– after all, it’s simply a task. But for the guys in this play, it’s not just a job. It’s whatever. We never see them do anything not directly related to work: They do not see their families, play games, socialize with old pals, absolutely nothing. Even when they participate in friendly banter or head out to consume, it recommends the purpose of getting ahead at work. Take, for instance, the restaurant scene involving Ricky Roma and James Lingk. In this exchange, Roma seems to be sharing his life approach with someone he just met: “Stocks, bonds, things of art, property. Now: What are they? (Pause.) A chance. To what? To earn money? Maybe. To lose cash? Perhaps. To “indulge” and to “discover” about ourselves? Maybe. So fucking what? What isn’t!.?.!? They’re an chance. That’s all. They’re an occasion,” (Mamet 49.) Roma appears to be offering a nearly existential perspective here to his freshly obtained companion: Do not let events and things in life specify you, since they themselves do not have significance. It depends on the individual to choose what they indicate. And yet, after sharing this releasing and liberating perspective with Lingk, Roma then introduces into the following: “I want to show you something. (Time Out.) It may mean absolutely nothing to you … and it might not. I don’t understand. I don’t know anymore. (Pause. He secures a small map and spreads it on a table.) What is that? Florida. Glengarry Highlands. Florida,” (Mamet 50). All of this rambling speech has actually led up to a sales pitch. Roma, despite advocating flexibility from labels and high principles that keep us distressed and worried, is himself slaving away for the capitalist organisation institution. In such a way, this is the ultimate scary. Roma’s identity as a free spirit– if it is his genuine identity and not an affectation– has been twisted and perverted to serve the requirements of the business. Roma can preach about seeing all things as simple opportunities, however at the end of the day, he can just do so as long as he’s high up on the board. Those are his two alternatives: remaining on the board or starving. He is a slave to the sales figures, and even his free-bird persona has become an instrument of accruing capital.
Even these characters’ many basic relationships, the ones we see, anyway, exist entirely for the purpose of getting ahead. Almost every line of discussion the various salesmen utter is for some self-indulgent end. What looks like a relatable series of interactions between Moss and Aronow where they grumble about their manager and their job is actually an attempt by the previous to strong-arm the latter into assisting him case the joint and swipe quality marketing leads. Roma’s monologue to Shelley where he tells Levene he appreciates him and that they ought to be partners turns out to be a tactic by Ricky to take cash from the senior salesperson. Living in this aggressive business world for so long has damaged their ability to empathize and befriend one another. By the end of this play, even these characters– whose careers, lives, and self-respect have been annihilated– still come off ruined in their own method. For these characters, the really act of speech is just a method to a financial end. They are entirely consumed by their occupations. Every experience they have actually had, everything they’ve done, every relationship they have actually made, are just a way to money in, win a cars and truck. If you can’t monetize it, in this world Mamet makes for us, does it really matter? Possibly this is why, in act 2, Roma gets so annoyed when Moss values his own self-respect over Levene’s achievements. Money is truly all these characters have, their making of it and losing it. One of the salespersons is literally called ‘The Device’ in an apparently favorable way. When Moss begins behaving as though there’s something more crucial than cash– say, his rights– Roma snaps, since if cash isn’t paramount, what do their lives indicate?
More evidence of this can be seen in the variation in how Shelley and Williamson treat each other. In the very first scene, Levene is totally and absolutely embarrassed by Williamson over and over once again, and is required to go through numerous stages of obsequious behavior to attempt and get the leads he requires to keep his job. In order to even access to the good leads, he needs to provide a big portion to Williamson, who keeps raising the cost just to view Levene squirm. And Levene, as he’s short on the board, is forced to take this indignity: “John. (Pause.) Listen. I wish to speak with you. Permit me to do this a second. I’m older than you. A guy obtains a track record. On the street. What he does when he’s up, what he does otherwise … I said ‘ten’ you stated ‘no.’ You stated ‘twenty.’ I said ‘great,’ I’m not gon na fuck with you, how can I beat that, you tell me? … Okay. Okay. We’ll … Alright, twenty percent, and fifty bucks a lead. That’s fine. For now. That’s great,” (Mamet 24). When Shelley can’t sell he has to flex over and do whatever Williamson wants. Contrast that to his attitude right after he closes what he thinks to be a large offer: “Why should the sale not stick? Hey, fuck you. That’s what I’m saying. You have no idea of your task. A guy’s his job and you’re fucked at yours,” (Mamet 75). The thing is, though, as Levene ultimately mentions, Williamson can not fire him, not on, as he calls it “an $80,000 day.” These characters, who they are, how individuals see them, and what they can do, are completely defined by their ability to make money. And, as Mamet tries to reveal us, it’s an unpredictable, rigged system. One where skills and good organisation practices are not half so essential as arbitrary figures, and where, in the end, both salesperson and customer suffer.
And with their identities as men constantly either denied them or under attack, these characters must re-enforce this image through hostility, insulting one another, and trying to embarrass co-workers. In her essay “Every Fear Hides a Wish: Unstable Masculinity in Mamet’s Drama,” Carla J. McDonough examines this ferocity’s roots. “More than anything else, characters such as Teach, Edmond, and Levene are worried about their identities as males. They are driven by a sense of powerlessness, for which they seek to over compensate, and they labor under a requirement to establish their identities in the face of genuine or thought of difficulties to their manhood,” (McDonough 196). Levene and the other salespersons in the workplace are so hostile due to the fact that their lives could be absolutely ruined by getting a bad lead, or by having a client take out at the last second. They have no control over their work or incomes, which they consider, and which we the audience are led to think, makes up a massive part of their lives and sense of self. But they can conceal this apoplexy and insecurity if they act vicious, tear one another down with lies and insults and jabs, that make them feel simply a bit effective. Much like how Willy hid his own self-loathing and sense of failure by his extreme faith and dedication to a misremembered past, the salespersons in Glengarry Glen Ross hide under a hostility without anchors and with an endless number of targets, which, simply as in the Loman household, only makes their situation less tolerable and more difficult. As a result of these two colliding forces, masculinity and service, we end up with a gray location, a turbid concoction half testosterone and half tender, which governs a growing number of American society.
Industrialism and financial success are a means of self-identification that the males in these plays utilize, primarily, as a surrogate for what they can not have: love, joy, relationships, or a lasting legacy throughout time. However the market is an unpredictable master. Success runs in streaks, and more often than not, when the best of luck runs out, it leaves a nasty scar behind. Of course, this doesn’t use just to characters in plays. After all, don’t companies, armies, countries today still make use of the world for all it’ll give them, get massively in debt trying to monopolize markets, and in other words, apply themselves far beyond their reach? Does not America court destruction with every brand-new war, brand-new bailout? Maybe what these playwrights imply for us to remove from their work is not a lot the awareness of all the small tragedies that conceal on every street corner, but rather a bigger view of the approaching catastrophe we still have time to prevent. What takes place when the world starts acting like Willy Loman? What takes place when it gets as desperate as Shelley Levene? Will it, too, do something morally dubious just to stay above water? Or, like Mr. Loman, will it end itself with a bang?
Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesperson. New York City: Viking, 1949. Print.
Williams, Grant. “Death of a Salesperson and Postwar Masculine Despair” Arthur Miller Journal (8:1) Spring 2013, 53-68,109.
Cassirer, Ernst. “Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.” Internet Encyclopedia of Viewpoint. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
Mamet, David. Glengarry Glen Ross: A Play. New York City: Grove, 1984. Print.
McDonough, Carla J. “Every Worry Conceals a Dream: Unstable Masculinity in Mamet’s Drama”. Theatre Journal 44.2 (1992 ): 195– 205. Web …