In the play Barefoot in the Park, Neil Simon presents several characters that have completely different outlooks on life. He combines characters that are liberal and conservative, and then lets them act out their differences. It is in these actions that the audience gets the laughs as these people interact with each other.
One of the more influential characters in the play is Corie Bratter. She has a very outgoing personality, and it is because of her that many of the actions in the play happen. Corie was the main force behind getting the apartment that her and Paul live in, and she sees past all of the negatives of their place. For example, climbing the six flight of stairs (or five flights and a stoop) does not tire or slow her down, and neither does the hole in the ceiling or the small living space. It is because of her outgoing nature that she takes a risk and sets up a date with Mr. Velasco and her mom, which was brave since Mr. Velasco’s introduction was creepy at the least. However, Mr. Velasco and her have the same outlook on life, and both have a good time together.
Paul, the aspiring lawyer, is one of the conservative characters present in the play. He is the antithesis of Corie, and thus has a different look on things that happen in life. He is described as a "stiff shirt" and "26 going on 56." Even though it can be seen that he loves his wife, his passion is in his job. Contrary to Corie, climbing the stairs tires Paul out, and it takes an effect on him. Also, Paul complains to Corie about the lack of a bath tub and the small bedroom. His goal in life is to become a successful lawyer so that he can take care of Corie.
Mr. Velasco is the second of the more liberal characters in the play. His ways are looked at in foreign ways throughout the play, whether it be climbing to his room through the Bratter’s bedroom, the unusual cuisine, or his housing situation. His differences in lifestyle are also taken differently by the other characters. For example, Corie flies headfirst into the idea of going to a foreign restaurant and has many servings of the different foods.
Ethyl and Paul are not so excited about the idea of eating something new. Although Mr. Velasco can be seen as bizarre and outlandish, he proves himself a caring individual especially to Ethyl.
Ethyl Banks is Corie’s mother, and is the other of the conservative characters in the play. Until the very end, she is wearing a fancy dress and is very concerned about the little things about her. She is a person that has to have control over everything in life. She feels this way so much that she sleeps on a board. Ethyl also carries pills around with her to calm her stomach. Mrs. Banks is a very motherly figure though, and proves it by giving daily gifts to the newly married couple.
One of the lessons learned by the end of the play is that fixed attitudes in life can cause relationships to sour. The characters at the end of the play have very noticeable differences than the characters at the beginning. Corie has seen how her actions could have been detrimental, and tries to become more careful. Paul starts doing spontaneous actions such as walking barefoot in the park and climbing outside in the middle of the night. Mr. Velasco realizes that he is not as young anymore, and vows to calm down. Ethyl figures out that she does not need items such as her board or pills anymore, and goes out of the house with messed up hair and wearing a kimono. In the end, we see characters going from one end of the conservative-liberal spectrum to somewhere in the middle. In their compromises, everyone finds happiness in each other.