Book Reports / Differing Values - Kowalski And Dubois

Differing Values - Kowalski And Dubois

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Autor:  anton  05 November 2010
Tags:  Differing,  Values,  Kowalski,  Dubois
Words: 1209   |   Pages: 5
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In scene two Stanley says, "the Kowalskys and Dubois have different notions". Based on your reading of scene one and two, to what extent do you agree with this statement? Focus on one character

A Streetcar Named Desire is a play founded on the premise of conflicting cultures. Blanche and Stanley, the main antagonists of the play, have been brought up to harbour and preserve extremely disparate notions, to such an extent that their incompatibility becomes a recurring theme within the story. Indeed, their differing values and principles becomes the ultimate cause of antagonism, as it is their conflicting views that fuels the tension already brewing within the Kowalski household. Blanche, a woman disillusioned with the passing of youth and the dejection that loneliness inflicts upon its unwilling victims, breezes into her sister’s modest home with the air and grace of a woman imbued with insecurity and abandonment. Her disapproval, concerning Stella’s state of residence, is contrived in the face of a culture that disagrees with the old-fashioned principles of the southern plantations, a place that socialised Blanche to behave with the superior demeanour of a woman brain-washed into right-wing conservatism. Incomparably, she represents the old-world of the south, whilst Stanley is the face of a technology driven, machine fuelled, urbanised new-world that is erected on the foundations of immigration and cultural diversity. New Orleans provides such a setting for the play, emphasising the bygone attitude of Blanche whose refusal to part with the archaic morals of her past simply reiterates her lack of social awareness. In stark contrast Stanley epitomises the urban grit of modern society, revealed by his poker nights, primitive tendencies and resentment towards Blanche.

From the very moment that Blanche is introduced into the story, the reader is immediately endowed with the knowledge that she is an unstable, flighty character, whose fancy apparel – "a white suit, fluffy bodice, necklace and earrings of pearl" – marks her as incompatible within the new-world as she is "incongruous to the setting". Tennesse Williams utilises setting to expose his characters. Blanche’s fallacy is highlighted by her inappropriate clothing, a discordance reinforced by the squalor of Stella’s home. Indeed, Blanche’s immediate "expression of shocked disbelief" when viewing the place for the first time, and her later condemnation of Elysian Fields, in which she says to her sister "what are you doing in a place like this?" and "why didn’t you tell me that you had to live in these conditions?" reveals her superior attitude. It is evident that her upbringing in Belle Reve is the culprit for her presumptuous manner. However, Stella’s polite civility in the face of her sister’s overbearing supremacy shows that the principles of Dubois heritage have not manifested themselves in all its members. She is meek, almost resigned when confronted with such rudeness. She offers to "pour the drinks" and discloses important information with the line "You never did give me a chance to say much. So I just got in the habit of being quiet around you." This contradicts the idea of the Dubois family having very different notions to the Kowalski's, as Stella has not been absorbed by the pretension of Belle Reve. The old-fashioned values imbued by the southern plantations are more cogent to the individual, in this case Blanche, as her fundamental characteristics, being "her uncertain manner" and "moth" like qualities, make her far more susceptible to such influences than the steady, emotionally stable Stella.

Stanley, like Blanche, is presented in a powerful, uncompromising light. His entrance is, ultimately, a complete summary of his character in all its primitive glory: "Animal joy in his being is implicit in all his movements and attitudes." His crass sexuality, in which "the centre of his life" is "pleasure with women" coincides with the fast-moving rigour of a world dominated by machinery. This vision contrasts starkly against the prude, formalist lifestyles of the southern plantations. He appreciates "rough humour" and has a "love of good drink and food and games, his car, his radio, and everything that is his." These are all emblems of the modern world, a world that Stanley embraces yet Blanche is not a part of. When Stanley greets Blanche for the first time, he merely says, "Stella’s sister? H’lo. Where’s the little woman?" This greeting is hardly the courtesy that a woman of rich southern parentage is accustomed to, and Blanche’s dismay is revealed by her shocked utterings of "I – uh" and "Why, I – live in Laurel."

The following scene is a further confirmation of Stanley and Blanche’s disparate principles, an incomparable set of moral codes that generate conflict and tension throughout. Stella instigates Stanley’s subsequent backlash against his wife’s sister when she says, "She wasn’t expecting to find us in such a small place. You see I’d try to gloss things over a little in my letters." This statement clarifies Blanche’s superior nature and her incompatibility to anything but the luxury and grandeur of their former home, Belle Reve. During the following conversation between husband and wife, in which Stanley acquires restricted information concerning the befallen fate of Belle Reve, he begins to suspect Blanche of deceiving her sister over the real reason for their loss. Unlike Blanche, who takes most things at face value and wears her heart on her sleeve in view of her sheltered upbringing, Stanley has learned to question everything and use his predatorily instincts in a society founded on corrupt capitalist dogmas and discriminatory ideals. He demands that his wife "open" her "eyes to this stuff", in other words the fanatical lies that her sister feeds her. He is openly resentful towards Blanche’s extravagant clothing when he says, "Look at these feathers and furs that she come here to preen herself in!" Evidently he is not accustomed to such extravagance, and thus feels it his duty to condemn Blanche for such financial indulgences. Furthermore, when Blanche tries to incite flattery from him by saying, "would you think it possible that I was once considered to be attractive?" he is unresponsive and simply claims that he doesn’t "go in for that stuff." Hence, a difference in values is exposed through the superficiality of aesthetic beauty and their contrasting approaches to the subject.

From studying the first two scenes of A Streetcar Named Desire, it is wholly evident that the story’s main antagonists, Blanche and Stanley, possess diverse notions and cultural ideals. Blanche is the epitome of southern aristocracy, a world dominated by old-fashioned laws and conservative morals, whilst Stanley embodies the fast-moving, vigorous asperity of the modern world and New Orleans. Blanche, quite literally, summarises her attitude to such cultural differences in the line "maybe he’s what we need to mix with our blood now that we’ve lost Belle Reve and have to go on without Belle Reve to protect us." In this sense, she views the male to be a figure of security and protection, perhaps the only worldly perception that she shares with her opposition whose chauvinism exposes a characteristically defined view of the universal man and his role as predator, protector and guardian. Otherwise, their notions are so diverse that their incompatibility drives the plot along and fuels arguments in every scene.



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