Money and Power in American Life: Comparing David Mamet's 'Glengarry Glen Ross' and Ishmael Reed's 'Flight to Canada'
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Glengarry Glen Ross and Flight to Canada: Money and power in American life
The play Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet creates a portrait of a small band of individuals with a very similar culture: the culture of real estate. In the play, the real estate agents are engaged in a kind of zero-sum game in which they are all trying to 'move' property in any way they can. They perceive themselves as in a race against time, and have no scruples about lying to clients to achieve their objectives. Legality means nothing to them. The protagonists of Ishmael Reed's book Flight to Canada are also engaged in illicit activities: the book's main protagonist Uncle Robin constructs a 'dodgy' real estate deal of his own, altering his master's will for the plantation to be left to himself. Although Reed's Uncle Robin has a kind of nobility in his resistance to slavery, while the characters of Mamet's play are merely corrupt, both writers use irony and exaggerated scenarios to highlight the extreme nature of the situations they are portraying, and the extreme natures of the characters, all of whom are living on the edge. Both plays underline the fact that there are two essential factors that provide the currency of power in American society: land and verbal acumen.
Mamet's play is a highly masculine world, where verbal aggressiveness is as much the currency as the real estate the men are wheeling and dealing. The real estate office is intensely competitive, and even though they work for the