Alpha Male: A Tale of the Battle of Commerce Essay

The Ethics of Characters in the Novel Alpha Male: A Tale of the Battle of Commerce and the Movie Glengarry Glen Ross

Just like in the novel Alpha Male: A Tale of the Battle of Commerce, the characters in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross are equally faced with ethical issues in the course of their profession. Such characters like Jack Kendrick in Alpha Male: A Tale of the Battle of Commerce and Shelley Levene in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross face situations that require them to compromise their ethical and moral attributes. This discussion presents an in-depth analysis of the ethics of characters in the movie and the novel based on the situations they confront in their professional lives. It will use specific characters from both the novel Alpha Male: A Tale of the Battle of Commerce and the movie Glengarry Glen Ross. Looking at the two pieces of art, most characters are affected by this vice. Generally, there way in which characters compromise their ethical standards in a bid to achieve their economic goal is worrying. 


The movie Glengarry Glen Ross is based on a great play written by David Mamet that talks about corruption in real estate trade (Mamet 1). The movie presents situations where salesmen have to compromise their ethics and morality for the sake of success in closing their next big deal so as to obtain the next big prospect. This thirst to strike the next big deal makes salesmen to behave in an offensive and often violent manner. They turn out to be deviants as they adopt behaviors that contravene socially acceptable standards. Generally, the characters in the movie are presented as unethical as they treat their clients unfairly for the sake of striking great deals. They are less concerned about the implications of their immoral acts for the clients that are mistreated. The salesmen’s violent actions and words often harm others or their property, resulting into stress related health complications.

The play has several ethical issues that its characters encounter in the course of conducting their businesses because of them being possessed with the need to achieve their economic goal. Almost all these issues facing the characters remain unsolved throughout the play, hence leaving the audience with unanswered questions about what happened at the end. The issues facing the characters in the play have to do with insubordination, lying to customers, closing deals at the bar, blackmail, and several instances of theft. These ethical issues occur when the characters pursuit to excel at their positions in the business. As usual, the need for profit generation overrides and characters are compelled to adhere to the situations without considering the implications of the acts for their personal ethics (Bredeson and Goree 101).

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In the novel Alpha Male: A Tale of the Battle of Commerce, the author presents a situation where a character’s ethical standards and morality are in conflict with the traits of workmates. Jack Kendrick, a sales manager for a powerful commercial real estate agency, is fired because he refuses to compromise his ethics so as to take part in an illegal sale. Kendrick suffers from the termination of his employment but later takes another job as he is hired by another firm. In his new job (Foster 13), Kendrick is faced with another problem as one of the firm’s agents working under him, Liz Peterson, lacks ethics and shows determination to achieve her desires irrespective of what it takes to get it. The height of immorality of the woman is evident in the situation where she forces a young trainee to have sex with a client. The trainee later commits suicide due to the act. Kendrick takes up the responsibility of investigating the cause of the young woman’s death. In the process of his investigations, Kendrick manages to discover Liz’s illegal deeds.

In Glendarry Glen Ross and Alpha Male: A Tale of the Battle of Commerce the traits of Jack Kendrick and Shelley Levene are comparable. The characters are similar due to their professional attitudes. The two characters were faced with circumstances that threatened to compromise their morality but, despite the odds, they always considered their abstract morality in every act that they got involved in (Mamet 1). The characters' considerations of morality often undermine their effectiveness at work, hence making them get fired from work. Kendrick lost his job due to his sense of  morality (Foster 17). Kendrick’s sense of ethics made it difficult for his employer to generate thousands of dollars and that is why  Kendrick ended up losing his job.

Lying was used by all sales brokers in the novel as a way of attracting customers to make sales. The sales persons are seen to be involved in unethical acts of lying as they make up stories and situations so as to create a sense of urgency in their deals to lure the investors to meet with them and make quick decisions. For example, Lemmon and Arkin’s spiel to potential investors is a great lie. They initiate lies with clients to keep them from meeting Pacino. Pacino and Lemmon also start series of lies with Pacino’s clients to prevent the client from meeting with Pacino. These lies are intended to limit the possibility of the client to back out of the investment deal that was already signed with Pacino. The salesmen are involved in a series of lies because the properties that they sell are of low quality. The only chance that they have is to lie about the nature of the property and avoid any meetings with the client that may result in termination of an already signed deal. The salesmen behave unethically by creating some unrealistic sense of urgency and a false sense of value for their property in order to sell it. Their behavior does not change throughout the novel due to the nature of the property the salesmen deal with. Their unethical acts remain unsolved, possibly because the quality of their property does not change to the better.  

Jack Lemmon gets involved in an unethical act of bribery at the place of work after realizing that his position was threatened by his worthless and old leads; he opts to bribe the office manager to acquire some premium leads that he has been keeping from them. The manager gets involved in this deal and offers a share of Lemmon’s commission and also some money ahead for each lead. This deal is negotiated behind the office, a place that was most appropriate for such illegal deals; at a time when the manager calls for payment before he can get back to the office for the leads. Lemmon has no money that is required and Kevin Spacey is reluctant to take anything less than the agreed amount. As a result, the deal fails to finalize as they had planned. The office manager flouted the ethical standards of his job by accepting a bribe form Jack Lemmon.

The business violates ethical standards starting from the top management down to the low ranked sales force. The office owner and the manager are involved in an unethical practice of holding new leads and promising some so that the salesmen cannot access them. The main reason behind this practice is unclear, although it could be understood that the manager and the office owner wanted the salesmen to fail or to prove their worth in the business. The salient point is the fact that they cannot have access to the promising leads and they spend a lot of energy trying to sell the old ones to prove their worth as salesmen, before the new leads are given to them. The office owner shows the new leads that he has bought from magazines and mails contents to the salesmen but he says that they can have the leads only when they show they worth them. Such an act is unethical because instead of giving the salesmen the premium leads, he gives them  old and used leads to sell.

The novel also depicts the use of orthodox means to gain success in business. The initial chapters of  Foster’s  novel shows that the first reason for Liz Peterson’s  spectacular success in real estate business is attributed to her reluctance to consider the societal morality in business. As Lemmon and Pacino in the novel, Liz was aware that in business success was only attained if an agent managed to force clients to play by the rules of the agent and not vice versa. Liz showed competence in negotiations and could persuade people into buying real estate. She never showed concern about the implications of her acts for the clients. Liz was aware that for her to succeed in the business, she had to take advantage of her colleagues' weaknesses, if any existed, for her own good.  Due to this business oriented mentality, Liz did not hesitate to threaten her trainee Montgomery that she would break her career if she declined to sleep with a client in order to conclude a deal with him. She threatened the trainee that if she failed to play the trick and participate in the deal, she would not be hired for a job. She also threatened that she, Liz, would ensure that everyone in the business knew that she got drunk at the dinner. Liz was convinced that using such threats would make the trainee to get convinced that no one would hire her for a job, hence she would do as Liz instructed. This is a sample case where the character, Liz, showed less concern for ethics at the work place. She forced the trainee to be involved in a sexual activity with a client so as to succeed in signing a deal with him. According to Liz, there were only two categories of people, winners and losers. Therefore, she was ever determined to get what she wanted for she was never prepared to be a loser on any instance. She based her determination on the reasoning that for one to succeed , she/he had to be prepared to anchor his / her career to the misfortunes of those that had confirmed themselves to be weak (Schwatz and Harris 89).

Liz’s business attitudes highly resonate with those of Blake, presented in “Glendarry Glen Ross” movie. Blake delivered a very strong speech before four sales representatives in an attempt to convince them that there was no way any one of them could justify their professional unsuccessfulness. Blake, similar to Liz, had a strong belief that in real estate business, there only existed two categories of people, winners and losers. Blake also believed in the idea that the process that salesperson went thorough to close a deal is of no importance, provided that the deal was successful. The whole idea in business, according to Blake and Liz, was to make profits, and the means that was used to attain the objective did not count. Blake argued that in real estate business, people had to operate on the principle of survival of the fittest. In his speech, he tried to persuade his salesmen that there were very reach people who had nothing to do with their money. Thus, it was the responsibility of the salesmen to ensure that they signed a deal with the reach people so that their money could be put to work. From the speech given by Blake, it was clear  that he had no taste for morality and fair business practices. His main interest was to get money for the sake of succeeding in business with little concern about the means that would be used to have it. This is an illustration of a business person that does not have any concern about the clients’ well being, but that aims to serve his/her personal interest.

Liz and Blake were attracted to the same type of cars that made them to appear successful in their business. The two characters' cars were perceived, to be an evidence of their superiority. The colleagues of both characters argued that they had always believed that the application of morality in business was totally counterproductive. They showed little concern about the choice of moral behavior as in business such behavior would serve no good and lead one to absolute failure and regret. The two characters argued that people needed an economy that was capable of providing its citizens with luxury to make moral choices. Therefore, in the process of seeking for comfort through business, moral considerations were not justified. They argued that a moral society can only be achieved when the experts of morality were prevented from intervening and messing up with economic affairs. The two characters presented arguments that could be seen to have a business value. However, considering the general ethical requirements in a business environment, the arguments failed to surface.

It is clear that both the movie and the novel depict a great stance with respect to business regulations. The main idea under exploration has to do with professional attitudes. Similar to Harkness, Williamson shows disregard to the excuses that are given by sales agents in an attempt to justify their failure to strike business deals. They both reason that the sales agents do not have solid reasons to demonstrate professional enthusiasm. Williamson believes that in the real estate business, the subordinate could only survive in the business if they are capable of prompting close leads. The agents that are unable to generate sales have no place in the business, hence they risk termination of their employment. Williamson argues that no business enterprise can thrive if employees are not made to operate according to the rule of corporate discipline. This means that employees’ personal challenges do not count as a justification for their failure to meet their business obligations. Without considering any ethical requirements in the society, Williamson is ever ready to fire a sales agent that fails to meet his/ her obligations as he considers human resource highly replaceable.

Looking at the novel and the movie, it is evident that they depict the shift in time with respect to the application of ethics in business practice (Crane and Matten 45). The two are effective in giving an indication of how commercial activities that are aimed at profit generation can turn out to be unethical in nature. The characters that are presented in the movie and the novel act in a manner that justifies the idea that business should take every move in order to succeed, with little concern about morality. As in a normal business case, the key concern is profit generation. This objective overrides every other interest. It is evident that, on the grounds of the need for sustainable business operations, the unethical acts of characters in the movie and the novel are justified as they help in profit maximization. Profit is prioritized and elevated above every other interest, like the need to respect societal moral prescriptions.

In conclusion, there are similarities in the ethics of characters in the novel Alpha Male: A Tale of the Battle of Commerce and the movie Glengarry Glen Ross. Both the movie and the novel support the proposition that it is only those that are focused on the pursuit of their corporate agenda can succeed in the current business environment. The business environment is dynamic to the extent that business people must employ other tricks to succeed. It does not matter whether one gets into conflict with the society, the end will always justify the means. This is evident from Liz’s behavior as she is determined to take every possible step  to meet her objective. Similarly, Kendrick’s former firm fires him for he fails to comply with the firm’s rules. He is reluctant to compromise his morality and ethics for the benefit of the firm. His failure to participate in an illegal sale makes him get fired. Kendrick’s determination to preserve his moral standing, that result into termination of his employment in the first firm, gives an indication of a few employees that resist the pressure at work place to preserve societal norms. Thus, there is similarity in the approach of the characters in “Glendarry Glen Ross” and “Alpha Male: A Tale of the Battle of Commerce” to ethical issues cannot be disputed.

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