Neil Simon Utilizing Character
Exaggeration Essay, Research Paper
UTILIZING CHARACTER EXAGGERATION
Simon stands alone as by far the most successful American playwright
of this century and most probably in the history of the American
theater” (Litz 573). He has entertained audiences for over thirty
years with many Broadway productions, screenplays and television
scripts. “He has been hailed as the most formidable comedy writer
in American theater” (Geitner 253). Despite his great success, the
majority of critics have refused to look past Simon’s “detonatingly
funny” quips and punchlines to the subject matter in his plays
(Geitner 253). “He has been virtually ignored by these literary
critics, who routinely dismiss him as a writer of popular comedies
that cater to the tastes of a well-established and loyal audience”
(Litz 573). It is occasionally true that Simon sacrifices meaning and
depth for a good joke, but “even in Simon s lightest comedies there
are undertones of seriousness” (Geitner 253). Simon illustrates
serious themes through the medium of comedy. He conveys the conflict
while at the same time, cracks a joke. According to Simon, “My idea
of ultimate achievement in a comedy is to make a whole audience fall
onto floor, writhing and laughing so hard that some of them pass out”
(Geitner 254). Simon uses different elements to put stress on the
conflict and also to aid in the humor of his plays. The jokes that
Simon produces arise from the situation, usuallybrought forth by
variegated elements, one of which is character exaggeration.
In two of his
early plays, Come Blow Your Horn and Last of the Red Hot Lovers,
Simon utilizes character exaggeration. In each of these plays the
conflicts are aided by the exaggeration of the characters, which
reveals each character s personality clearly and accurately.
Situations are intensified and apparent, thus the underlying conflict
is easily perceived. The character exaggeration also promotes themes
that arise throughout Simon s plays.
Come Blow Your Horn, is centered around two brothers, Alan and Buddy.
They both work for their father’s waxed fruit company. Alan, the
older of the brothers, is a swinging bachelor who comes fully equipt
with his own apartment and many willing women to fill it. Buddy, on
the other hand, is Alan’s opposite, hard working and conscientious.
The play opens
up with Alan trying to seduce one of his lady friends, Peggy, with
whom he spent the weekend at a ski resort. To overstate his character
further, he repeatedly called Peggy, “Connie” who is another one
of his girlfriends. To top it off , he, unknowly at the time, missed
an important sales meeting. After Peggy left, Alan’s kid brother
Buddy enters. Buddy had just moved out of his parents house to live
with Alan, unbeknownst to his parents. Alan is happy to see his
brother brake away from their overbearing parents.
their father, Mr. Barker enters. Simon vividly conveys Mr. Bakers
characterization. From The moment he steps into Alan’s apartment
and nods disgustedly, his personality takes shape. He examines the
room and, “It is obvious he approves of nothing in the apartment”
(Come Blow Her Horn 17). Mr. Baker does not talk, he yells and as
best put by Alan, ” We don’t talk. We have heart to heart
threatening-” (Come Blow Your Horn 10). Mr. Baker barks at Alan,
while Buddy hides in Alan’s bedroom, the brothers fear of their
father is obvious. Mr. Baker runs down a long list of complaints to
Alan, everything from missing the meeting to take a vacation, to
being an unmarried bum. Alan’s lazy attitude and lifestyle
interferes with his job, and consequently his father, who is his
boss. The fact that when Alan moved away from home Mr. Baker began to
disapprove of him, and now Buddy, the son to whom Mr. Baker had
decided to endow all his hope, moved away from home unquestionably
put the nail in the coffin.
Last of the Red
Hot Lovers is Simon’s attack on despair through comedy. “Last of
the Red Hot Lovers is not merely a comedy, but a commentary in the
manner of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 (1961)” (Geitner 257). The
main character, Barney Cashman, who is the “last of the red hot
lovers” is facing a mid-life crisis. For the first time in his life
he is meditating about death. He feels as if he has missed out on
many things during his lifetime. In an act of desperation before he
gets too old, “He decides to introduce excitement into his life via
adultery” (Martin 4). The exaggeration of Barney s characterguides
the play through its development. He tries too hard to have an affair
and usually, inadvertently talks his way out of having intercourse.
He owns a restaurant where he uses cheap pick up lines to lure some
of Manhattan s most disturbed women back to his mother s vacant
apartment. Barney’s would-be lovers all suffer from one affliction
Navazio is a depressed, cynical chain smoker who asks only for quick
sex and no complications. Elaine just wants satisfaction, while
“Barney describes his intentions as ‘of a romantic nature’”
(Johnson 45). Elaine is emotionally cold by nature, and unlike
Barney, she does not want to analyze her situation, for she does not
have any hope of improving her circumstance in life. She states, “I
happen to like the pure, physical act of making love. It warms me, it
stimulates me and it makes me feel like a woman- but that’s another
ugly story” (Last of the Red Hot Lovers 27). When Barney tries to
be romantic towards Elaine, she tells him, If you want undying love
and romance, take a guitar and go to Spain (Johnson 45). When Elaine
complains about Barney s ceaseless talking, Barney explains that he
just wants her to know a little bit more about himself. Atthis point
Barney realizes that, In sum, he cannot, after all, be like the young
swingers he has heard about who have sex, plain and straight, with
total strangers (Johnson 46). Barney and Elaine become irritated with
each other and get into a heated argument, about eachother s
philosophy of life, which ends with Elaine getting up and walking out
of the apartment.
second attempt of adultery is Bobbi Michele. She is an amateur
nightclub singer with a vast genre of mental problems including
paranoia and delusions of grandeur. They met in the park one day, and
Barney lent her money for an accompanist for her theater audition.
The next day she showed up at Barney’s mother’s apartment to
supposedly to pay him back. Bobbi doesn t seem to have a firm grip on
reality. Not long after she arrives at the apartment, she says, I
love this neighborhood. I knew this street looked familiar. I once
had a girl friend who lived on this block. Forty-seventh between
First and York (Last of the Red Hot Lovers 33). Barney corrects her:
This is Thirty-seventh (Last of the Red Hot Lovers 33). Which she
concludes with, Thirty-seventh. Of course. Then she couldn t have
lived on this block. Ohh, that s better (Last of the Red Hot Lovers
33). She also tells Barney he is shorter than he looked before, and
that she remembered him having a moustache (Johnson 47). She is very
misleading and explains bizarre episodes in her life. She complains
about receiving obscene phone calls; but then it turns out that,
instead of hanging up, she listens to the obscenities for fifteen
minutes at a clip (Johnson 47). Bobbi s angry outbursts point to
another facet of her personality. She undergoes sudden moodswings.
When a roommate is slow to answer Bobbi s phonecall, Bobbi remarks,
She hears the phone. She s just a lazy bitch (Last of the Red Hot
Lovers 37). Bobbi comes at Barney from too many directions for him to
steer her where he wants to go. Barney gives up on trying to analyze
Bobbi and opts to listen to her stories before she leaves.
The final woman
Barney chooses to pursue is Jeanette Fisher. According to Last of the
Red Hot Lovers: She is probably the singularly most depressed woman
the face of the Western Hemisphere. She wakes up to gloom and goes to
bed with gloom. She fills the in between hours with despair (52).
Jeanette and her husband, Mel, are good friends of Barney and his
wife, Thelma. At this point, Barney is in almost the exact frame of
mind as Elaine. He does not want to chitchat, he wants sex.
Ironically, he has waited too long and has picked the wrong partner
for this mood. Jeanette, however, brooding about Mel s having an
affair with another woman, is too depressed to follow through on her
previous impulse to have sex with Barney (Johnson 45). She is aroused
and tells Barney: I don t particularly enjoy sex (Last of the Red Hot
Lovers 55). Instead, she leads Barney into a debate about whether
there are any decent people in the world. Jeanette asks him if he
thinks death is terrible. This question catches Barney s attention,
for it was his intensified awareness of death that lead to his desire
to have an affair. He says that he does think death is terrible.
Jeanette follows up with: You mean you enjoy life? ( Last of the Red
Hot Lovers 60). Barney responds, I love living. I have some problems
with my life, butliving is the best thing they ve come up with so far
(Last of the Red Hot Lovers 60). Barney convinces Jeanette that there
are some good people in the world. Soon after, he phones his wife so
they can meet.
In Come Blow
Your Horn and Last of the Red Hot Lovers, Simon uses character
exaggeration to intensify conflict and construct a comedy that
progresses efficiently and predictably. In Come Blow Your Horn, the
conflict is between the lifestyles of the two brothers and how their
father thinks that they should live. The exaggeration of the brothers
makes their lifestyles seem very extreme, as is the same concerning
their father s negative attitude toward them. In Last of the Red Hot
Lovers, the exaggeration of the Barney outlines conflicts that arise,
and the exaggerations of the women he pursues, adds both stress and
humor. Also, In Last of the Red Hot Lovers Simon employs exaggeration
for thematic enrichment (Geitner 257). The exaggeration of the
characters in Simon s plays aids the conflict, the humor, the
evolution of themes, and makes personality traits abruptly obvious.
These unique elements which he incorporates into his plays convey the
theme and make you laugh in the process. Like many of his plays, in
the end of Come Blow Your Horn and Last of the Red Hot Lovers
conflict is resolved and they end on a good note. The purpose of a
Neil Simon play and the reason most people see one of Simon s works
is for the laughter that invariably comes with the experience
(Patterson 2). Through Neil Simon s efforts he is and will remain one
of America s most popular and prolific playwrights.
... In an allegorical narrative, eachcharacter (or, sometimes, object) ... - not a hope! (E. O’Neill) 303 The Soul selects her ... the standards of the utilized implementation methodology, evaluation ... Oxymoron Is a deliberate exaggeration of some quantity or quality. ...
... free, closely parallel each other even today. Survival ... were suppressed from utilizing them in their ... Valley of the Nile; the Nilotic Negroes ... freedom tended to be exaggerated and extravagant. Instead ... some authority outside or above the law, their character ...
... MYERS-BRIGGS CHARACTER TYPES…………………………………………………..125 ... acquisition, while children utilize strategies of " ... assigned to each group. Each group ... Rebecca and Anderson, Neil J. 1995. "A crosscultural ... intonation is some what exaggerated, and numerous ...