The main characters, Felix Unger and Oscar Madison, are complete opposites who come to live together under one roof and are forced to point out each other’s flaws. This opposite nature of the two characters causes complete chaos, creating comedic genius leaving the audience laughing at almost every line. In the play, the idea of marriage is completely satirized, where Felix is seen as the stereotypical cleanly wife, and Oscar is seen as the untidy husband.
Because of Simon’s authentic yet comedic development of both characters, gender role norms are completely mocked, and the line between heterosexuality and homosexuality is questionably crossed. To begin, Neil Simon created characters that depicted two different extremes, clean and messy. The character of Oscar Madison has come to be known as the slovenly half of this odd couple, literally and metaphorically. Oscar portrays a stereotypical straight man (and husband) of his day. He is forty-three years old, pleasant, and enjoys living his life.
He partakes in a weekly poker game with his good friends, likes to drink excessively, and smoke cigars. He works as a sportswriter for the New York Post, which means he makes good money, but he never seems to have any. His luxurious upper west side apartment that was once beautifully decorated and well kept by his ex wife, has now become a complete man cave. Strayed throughout the apartment are dirty dishes, clothes, old mail and newspapers, ashtrays, and empty bottles. His carefree attitude is the most evident in the extreme disorder of his apartment. As the play opens in Madison’s apartment, the weekly poker game is taking place.
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In short conversation with his friends, the reader gets a quick insight into Oscar’s personality. “Oscar: [Looks under bread] I got brown sandwiches and green sandwiches and green sandwiches. Well what do you say? Murray: What’s the green? Oscar: It’s either very new cheese or very old meat. Murray: I’ll take the brown. [Oscar gives Murray a sandwich] Roy: [Glares at Murray] Are you crazy? You’re not going to eat that are you? Murray: I’m hungry. Roy: His refrigerator’s been broken for two weeks. I saw milk standing in there that wasn’t even in a bottle. Oscar: [To Roy]
What are you, some kind of health nut? Eat, Murray, eat! (Richards 433) It obvious that messy and somewhat unsanitary state of Oscar’s apartment seems to bother everyone else except himself. It’s almost as if Oscar has no worries or cares. On the other side of things, Felix Unger is known as the cleanly half of the couple, and the more sensitive one. To put it simply, he is a complete and utter compulsive neat freak. Not only does he enjoy cleaning, but he also genuinely enjoys pointing out the negative in just about anything. Felix is also incredibly oblivious to his own character most of the time. He’s extremely dramatic, and an arguable hypochondriac, seen in his “struggles” with bursitis.
Now, although it is obvious how opposite Felix and Oscar are, it cannot be forgotten that they have one thing in common; their wives have left them both. This of course, is what tweaks Oscar’s conscious when Felix is kicked to the curb by his wife and has nowhere to go. To watch over his attention seeking suicidal tendencies, Oscar invited Felix to stay with him, and that is when the odd couple is born. Neil Simon provides the reader with somewhat of foreshadowing of Felix’s neurotic tendencies through a conversation Felix and Oscar have right after Oscar has invited him to stay. Simon writes: “Felix: Oscar, please.
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I have to be alone for a few minutes. I’ve got to get organized. Go on, you go to bed. I’ll-I’ll clean up. [He begins picking up debris from the floor] Oscar: [Putting the pillow into the pillowcase] You don’t have to clean up. I pay a dollar fifty an hour to clean up. Felix: It’s all right, Oscar. I wouldn’t be able to sleep with all this dirt around anyway. Go to bed. I’ll see you in the morning. [He puts the dishes on the tray] Oscar: You’re not going to do anything big, are you, like rolling up the rugs? Felix: Ten minutes, that’s all I’ll be. Oscar: “You’re sure? Felix: [Smiles] I’m sure. ” (Richards 466)
From this, the reader can immediately recognize that the two characters are different, just by the way they view tidiness. The reader can infer, because of how different their personalities are, that this will cause major issues down the road. Oh, how it does! The first scene is act two takes place about two weeks later, which means Felix and Oscar have been living under one roof for that long. Simon describes the scene: “There is one major difference between this scene and the opening poker-game scene. It is the appearance of the room. It is immaculately clean. No, not clean. Sterile! Spotless!
Not a speck of dirt can be seen under the coats of Johnson’s Glo-Coat that have been applied to the floor in the last three weeks. No laundry bags, no dirty dishes, no half-filled glasses” (Richards 468).
It’s apparent that Felix has taken over. His compulsive ways have transformed Oscar’s apartment to how it once looked when he was married and his wife taking care of the place. This just exemplifies Felix’s role as the wife, and contributes to the real “oddness” of this couple It has less to do with their differing approach to say laundering clothes, where Felix of course, would send it to a drycleaner, and Oscar wear it in the shower.
But it has more to do with the fact they were “two divorced, heterosexual men sharing an apartment, where they cooked, cleaned (or refused to clean), bickered, and negotiated the dilemmas of everyday existence together,” just like a married couple (Stevens).
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And how they do bicker! After Felix not only ruins a poker game with the guys, but a double date because of his clean-freak ways and sensitive personality, Oscar gets fed up like a typical husband would do. He says: “I’ll tell you exactly what it is. It’s the cooking, cleaning and crying. It’s the talking in your sleep. t’s the moose calls that open your ears at two o’clock in the morning. I can’t take it any more, Felix. I’m crackin’ up. Everything you do irritates me. And when you’re not here, the things I know you’re gonna do when you come in irritate me. You leave me little notes on my pillow. I told you a hundred times, I can’t stand little notes on my pillow. ‘We’re all out of Corn Flakes. F. U. ’ It took me three hours to figure out that F. U. was Felix Ungar. It’s not your fault, Felix. It’s a rotten combination” (Richards 507).
Here, on top of great comedic humor, Simon is obviously satirizing the relationship between a husband and a wife.
Of course couples, especially newlyweds, all have trouble living together. Each spouse usually finds little things that the other one does that annoy him or her. Wives who are overbearing and bothersome, are typically seen to be as somewhat of a nag, like Felix is seen here. And the husbands, like Oscar, are seen to have short fuses and be easily frustrated, especially by a nagging wife. Simon even hints at this when he uses the phrase “rotten combination. ” Later on, when Oscar is at the ends of his whits and kicks Felix out, Simon finally uses the word. Oscar says, “It’s all over, Felix. The whole marriage. We’re getting an annulment!
Don’t you understand? I don’t want to live with you anymore. I want you to pack your things, tie it up with your Saran Wrap and get out of here” (Richards 510).
What the reader has been thinking the entire time has finally been brought to light! Because of Felix’s sensitive personality and womanly ways, and Oscar’s careless and slovenliness, the traditional gender role identity norms are completely being mocked. In the 1950s and in the beginning of the 1960s, women were seen as the homemakers, while men were typically the breadwinners (Kearns).
Women took care of the children and the household, cleaning and cooking.
For a man to take on these jobs was so out of the ordinary! Felix has clearly taken on the role of a wife, where Oscar has taken on the role of the husband. Today, society would view the character of Felix, and even further, their arrangement as grazing the border between heterosexuality and homosexuality. It is is not clear if this was an underlying thought in Simon’s mind. Homosexuality was looked upon very differently in the 1960s compared to today. There weren’t any gay meccas, and most homosexuals lived in the closet and tried to pass for straight (Kearns. ) However, in one of Oscar’s lines, “why don’t you live in a closet?
My essay will analyze Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple, which first appeared on Broadway at the Plymouth Theatre in New York City in 1965 starring Art Carney (Felix Unger) and Walter Matthau (Oscar Madison). I will employ a literary analysis which focuses on the principle male character, setting, and theme to gain a more formal understanding of this story. 1. 2 Overview Figure 1: The Odd Couple, ...
I’ll leave your meals outside the door and slide in the papers. Is that safe enough” (Richards 479), it can be inferred that Simon is hinting at the idea. Dana Stevens writes, “The Odd Couple might be read as an unconsummated love story between a straight and a gay man. Whatever their preferences in the bedroom, it’s clear that Oscar and Felix are spiritually married, locked together in an almost Beckettian struggle between dependence and autonomy. ” All in all, the iconic characters that Neil Simon has created of Felix Unger and Oscar Madison have become mainstays of popular culture (Dallas Theater Center).
When reading The Odd Couple, not only will the reader be exposed to clever comedy, but through the humor the reader will be able recognize Simon’s parody of a stereotypical married couple. Neil Simon’s extensive development of the opposite traits and personalities of both characters acts as a foundation for the epic satire. Because of this mockery, gender roles have been teased, which will naturally lead the reader to question Felix’s sexuality. Today, although the views of the characters are more liberal, the concept has remained to stay authentic and withstand the test of time.