Gender Roles in the Odd Couple

Topics: The Odd Couple, Gender role, Felix Unger Pages: 5 (1903 words) Published: May 16, 2013
The Odd Couple by Neil Simon

The Odd Couple by Neil Simon is one of the most classic comedic plays in history. It is one of Simon’s most famous plays, and arguably one of his best works. 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. 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. 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...

Cited: Kearns, Christine Andelin . "Project 2- The Changing Concept of Gender in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s." Christine Andelin Kearns. Google Sites, n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2013. <>.
Richards, Stanley. Best Plays of the Sixties. 1st ed. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1970. Print.
"Shows | Dallas Theater Center." Dallas Theater Center | Dallas, TX. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 May 2013. <>.
Stevens, Dana. "The Odd Couple 's sexual ambiguity. - Slate Magazine." Politics, Business, Technology, and the Arts - Slate Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2013. <>.
The Odd Couple‚ review by Travis McClain, Letterboxd." Letterboxd ‚ Your life in film. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 May 2013. <>.
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