Monday, October 8, 2007

Flecther as Character in American Buffalo (Annotation G2-14/Goddard)

The plan to steal a coin, and the relationship between the conspirers consume the dialogue in David Mamet’s play, American Buffalo. The entire story takes place in one location, Don’s Resale Shop, and represented by three characters: Don, Bob and Teach. Fletcher, the fourth character never makes an appearance on the stage, or on the page, but is referred to by the other characters. Impressively, the development of Fletcher comes only in the words of others, making him a valuable character despite his absence.
As the play opens, in Don’s Resale Shop, Don and Bob, his assistant, are talking about street smarts and the privy practices of poker. Fletcher makes his first appearance in the initial dialog as Don tells Bob: “Now, Fletcher is a standup guy” (Mamet 4). In the description of Fletcher, Don tells Bob as well as the reader how Fletcher, with only a nickel in his pocket can take a town “by the balls” and own it by nightfall. This reverence of Fletcher continues through the description of the card game of the night before. Don’s feelings are clear early on about his friend Fletcher, and he urges Bob to model himself on Fletcher.
Teacher, the third visible character appears early in the Resale Shop as an aggressive misogynist, he enters the scene angry about a recent conversation with Ruthie and Grace. After taking offense to something one of them said to him, Teach retells the situation to Bob and Don. Very telling about his character, Teach is the kind of guy who believes he has friends and that these friends like him. However, if he is the kind of person to be angry over trivial matters and talk ill of friends behind their backs, he is not trustworthy as a person or character. Knowing his feelings early on about Ruthie and Grace, it is only a matter of time before his feelings about everyone come out. Teach seems to want to exert control over Don, and has an instant distrust of Bob.
As Teach inserts himself in the plan to lift a coin from a collector, a job Don and Bob were already mired in, Teach tries to come across as an expert in such thefts. As Don loses patients and control with Teach, he suggests they should include Fletcher in the job. At this suggestion, Teach realizes the split of the coin theft profit gets smaller for each with more participants and he tries to slander Fletcher. In the slander, Teach brings up the card game from the night before, and tries to make Don believe Fletcher is not the card player that Don once thought he was. Teach makes a very believable argument that Fletcher is in league with Ruthie and Grace, suggesting that the three of them cheated both Don and Teach out of money. Retelling events from the card game Teach tries to assert control by eliminating Fletcher from Don’s plan to steal the coin.
Questions of Fletcher’s character arise with the opposition of Teach and Don: Don believes Fletcher to be a standup guy and Teach calls him a cheater. As the time comes near to execute the plan, Don and Teach are still in disagreement over Fletcher’s inclusion, and they both wait for him to arrive. As the play closes, the entrance of Fletcher never happens. Bob relieves the tension by telling Teach and Don about Fletcher being hospitalized after a mugging.

Mamet, David. American Buffalo. New York: Grove Press, 1976.

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