A Relationship Not to Live By

         If I were able to teach a course to a group of students on relationships, I would use the DuBois-Kowalski family as the number one example of how to have a dysfunctional family. It is likely I would not even give an example of a family with good relationships because this family pretty much covers all the bad aspects.

         I do not really know where to start, so I will begin somewhere in the middle. In Tennessee Williams' 1947 play A Streetcar Named Desire, filmed in 1951 by Elia Kazan, we have Stella (Kim Hunter) and Stanley (Marlon Brando), who are obviously in love but in all the wrong ways. Stanley drinks too much, cusses too much, and takes out his bad moods on his wife and her sister, who had just moved in with them. Stanley beats Stella, who is pregnant with his child--not to mention he rapes her crazy sister, Blanche (Vivien Leigh), causing her to fall off the edge of sanity and be admitted to a mental hospital.

         The New Orleans house they live in is a complete pigsty. I am unsure if this is due to the fact that Stella is a bad housekeeper or if Stanley is constantly wrecking the place. After Blanche moves in, the place starts to look better, but who can say Blanche is any better because she lost the DuBois family home. It turns out Blanche is not much of a house "keeper" herself!

         Blanche is not very good at keeping relations either. We learn that her young husband committed suicide soon after they were married because she caught him with another man! After this event, Blanche had one bad relationship after another and became quite promiscuous. Blanche even resorted to having an affair with one of her young students, which ultimately caused her to lose her job as a teacher.

         It is sad because Blanche had one last shot at having a happy relationship; and, because Stanley wanted rid of her, he ruined everything for her by revealing her past to everyone.

         Not only do Stanley and Stella have a bad relationship, Stella and Blanche have a terrible relationship as well. It is obvious that Blanche coming to New Orleans was her last cry for help. Instead of being there for her sister, Stella chooses to keep her head in the clouds. Personally, I blame Stella as much as I blame Stanley for Blanche losing it completely. While Stanley rapes Blanche physically, Stella rapes her mentally and emotionally by not standing by her side and being the sister she could be.

         It is hard to say if this family could help students in guiding their relationships in the right direction, but these examples could definitely guide them away from most of the wrong ones. What we can learn from this family is to not beat one's pregnant wife or rape her sister. It is not advised to send one's sister-in-law to a mental institution. While one is eating dinner, it is not a good idea to throw the flatware at the wall or at each other.

         Communication is good as well, especially communicating to one another and not just to oneself as Blanche did. Another factor in having a good relationship is to have a relationship with someone close to one's own age, preferably not a minor. Again, one must not rape one's sister-in-law.

         Instead of going out and drinking all night, one should spend time with one's family and not scream and fight with the neighbors. I would also suggest not living in an apartment complex where the upstairs neighbors can pour hot water down on one. This does not make good neighbors.

         Basically, if one wants a good relationship, one should read Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire and watch the movie. Do exactly the opposite of everything the characters do in both the play and the film, and it is likely one will have functional relationships. Otherwise, move to New Orleans, live in a rat hole, and live like the devil.

Katie Clark

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