‘The Kowalski’s and the Dubois have very different notions’
To what Extent is this Polarity Central to a Street Car Named Desire?
In ‘A Street Car Named Desire’ the polarity between the Kowalski’s and the Dubois are central to the play as it develops. The differences between the main characters become almost instantaneously apparent when Blanche arrives in New Orleans; these divisions are a source of much conflict and problem throughout the play as the lead characters play off one and other. Another important polarity in the play is Stella, she is neither truly Dubois or Kowalski and her versatile nature becomes a central theme to the play as Stella supports whichever family member she happens to be near to at the time. Williams uses the contrasting backgrounds between the two families to create an unusual double mask of tragic comedy. The comic elements in the play then act as self-preservation in stark contrast to the play’s true tragic nature.
The polarity between the Kowalski’s and the Dubois is central to the play as it is the source of much conflict. For example in Scene Three the large difference in social class truly becomes evident when Stanley starts behaving like an animal; with Stella cowering in the corner like a refined woman who is unaccustomed to having to stand up for herself. The scene underscores the primal nature of Stella and Stanley’s union, and it cements Stanley’s identity as a villain. After Stanley’s drunken radio-hurling episode, Stella yells at him and calls him an “animal thing,” inciting Stanley’s attack. Later that night, Stanley bellows “STELL-LAHHHHH!” into the night like a wounded beast calling for the return of his mate. Their reunion is also described in terms of animal noises. Stanley’s cruel abuse of his wife convinces the audience that genteel Blanche has her sister’s best interests in mind more than Stanley does. Yet Stella sides with Stanley and his base instincts, infusing the play with an ominous sense of gloom. The scene therefore shows that polarity is central to the play because in scene 3, Stanley behaves throughout aggressively and crudely while listening to inappropriate jokes; this contrasts greatly with Blanche and Stella’s original background from Laurel and there courteous manner. This clear difference in social distinction is central because it is a source of conflict; the several occasions in the play when Stanley gets angry is usual when an insult has been made to his heritage and background ’ your Polack’ and therefore the polarity in social classes possibly even effects the final outcome of the play; whether Blanche would have gotten raped if she had not been so particular in pointing out the differences in there birthrights. The polarity between the Dubois and Kowalski’s is therefore central to the play because as both families are so different socially, most interactions with Stanley and Blanche cause some sort of conflict in the play; the polarity between the families possibly even causing the conflicting end result of the play where Blanche is raped.
Another factor that instigates the polarity between the two families in a ‘Streetcar Named Desire’ is the role and function of Stella in the family. Stella is central to the play as although a Dubois by blood she is now a Kowalski by name; although blood is meant to be thicker than water Stella continually, when forced to make a decision sides with Stanley rather than her sister. Blanche illustrates her low opinion of Stanley through a descriptive image of a caveman, she thinks his background is common and he is violent, uneducated and that Stella is too good for him. Stella ignores Blanche’s opinion and the minute Stanley comes home she throws herself into his arms. It is a constant competition between Stanley and Blanche to gain Stella’s support, Stella is constantly stuck in the middle and usually supports whoever she is with at that moment. For example when spending time with Blanche Stella is more cheeky ‘you ought to see there wives’ and less worried about what people think of her. However, when spending time with Stanley she is subservient and docile, living to serve and make him happy. Stanley reminds Stella of their opposing backgrounds, yet does not present it through the negative view that Blanche sees. Stanley believes he saved Stella from an uptight, refined background and brought her to the colourful, common world and Stella is duty bound to believe him. Once again Stella is caught between the crossfire of opinions forced to take sides yet ultimately Stella sides with Stanley because at the end of the play she does not wish to hear what Blanche has to say for once, her negative attitude. Stella therefore shows the polarity between the two families in the way that each member of the Dubois and Kowalski’s expect her to behave around them, and the contrasting way in which they live there own lives and continually try to control hers.
The dissimilar social ideas of the two families create a central theme to the play because it is these differentiating ideas that determine the way that each character behaves towards one and other and in the play. For example when Stanley informs Stella of Blanche's tawdry sexual history; he shows her that although Blanche believes she comes from a better background, she behaves to the contrary. Blanche lives her life as if she had no education, no refinement, and no prudence. It's almost as she lives the background of Stanley that she so desperately thinks is unfit for Stella. Another example is that Blanche exits the house as she entered. She walks through the "common" poker game in a very refined, proper way ’please don’t get up’ then leaves as they continue to play poker. The opposing ways of life are evident in this final scene of the play. The poker players are still drunk and common, Stella is classy and concerned for her sister, Mitch stares at the table upset, and Stanley tries to woo his wife back to their previous ways. All the different upbringings, representing a modern society. Also there ideas of the role of men and women create another polar theme to the play. To Blanche the role of men is to behave with courtesy and chivalry, trying to make the lives of women as comfortable and as happy as possible; the role of the women being to keep a clean house and look attractive- this reflects in the way she presents herself to the other characters in the play. This is a stark contrast to Stanley’s idea that men are the dominant person in the house, may do what they please as women will always be there to look after ‘ he threw the watermelon rinds on the floor’ and clean up after them. The polarity between the two families is shown to be a central theme in the play due to social ideas such as the behaviour of people. For example Stanley thinking it is alright to rape Blanche as he is the head of the household and a man and she in his belief deserved it. The polarity is also shown between the constant struggle for dominance in the house.
Finally polarity is a central theme between the two families in the form of loneliness. Blanche is all alone since her husband died in such traumatic circumstances; and it is this factor that leads her to such desperate measures. Whereas Stanley and Stella have each other with a baby on the way and despite any problems they may have, they always work things out. It is loneliness that therefore drives Blanche to insanity and the point of madness, chasing anything that will have her, protect and watch over her. For example, Blanche now she is older just wants someone to look after her so when she meets Mitch she recognises something in him that she sees in herself - loneliness. As they get to know each other, Blanche and Mitch recognize their distinct backgrounds. Mitch talks about mundane things such as perspiration and gyms, while Blanche talks of education and foreign languages. They both give the impression of coming from different worlds as they speak with one another. Despite their opposing upbringings, they still enjoy one another and want to spend more time together. However, whereas Mitch’s experiences have engendered in him a strong sincerity, Blanche seeks refuge in make-believe and insincerity that is painfully obvious in her remarks about the sincerity of dying people. The difference in their reactions to similar experiences and in their approaches to life suggests that they are not an ideally matched pair. Blanche thinks on a spiritual level, while Mitch behaves practically and temperately, however they both supported there parents in lingering death and now look towards each other for comfort. So polarity is a central theme here because Mitch and Blanche share one thing that transcends class and background; loneliness.
In conclusion polarity between the Dubois and Kowalski’s play a central theme to a certain extent because, all significant events such as when Stanley sabotages Mitch and Blanche’s relationship occur due to a difference in opinion towards social behaviour. Both families have been taught to behave in certain ways, however, polarity does not necessarily always play a central theme because fairly often behaviour integrates to point where you cannot see the difference in social class so therefore cannot always play a central role in the play; for example Blanche and Stanley‘s love of drink despite Blanche supposedly being a lady.