Lessons of Major Barbara, Good Woman of Setzuan, and Madwoman of Chaillot

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Lessons of Major Barbara, Good Woman of Setzuan, and Madwoman of Chaillot Philosophers all over the world have pondered over the idea of evil. This brings up another extremely essential question, “how should we live?” Because we know that evil is existent in our world, does that mean we must live with the knowledge, accept it and conform to society’s ideal that only the cunning survive? Or do we keep our original identity of purity and goodness at heart in our everyday lives. The three pieces of literature that we read all deal with this dilemma in different ways. And like in all good stories, good prevails over evil. The first play that we will discuss was my favorite. It is entitled The Good Woman of Setzuan written by the German author Brecht. This story is about a woman that was too kind for her own good. Her name is Shen Te. In the beginning of the story she is a prostitute but at the end she becomes a successful tobacco shop owner, fiancé and mother-to-be. Shen Te also creates another character that displays her deceitful and greedy side, or the side of her that could survive in her society, Shui Ta. He is a brash and brutal young man who drives spongers away.1 Yang Sun is an unemployed airman that Shen Te saves from committing suicide. He is a big creep that later admits that he has no intention of marrying her and is after Shen Te’s money. The story starts off when three gods come to earth in search of a good human being. Unless they discover at least one, the world would cease to exist. After traveling from town to town they arrive in Setzuan. No one in the town would let them stay the night except Shen Te, who was then the town prostitute. The gods realize that they have found their one good human and repay her kindness and hospitality with a large sum of money. After the gods depart, the townspeople all flock to Shen Te in hopes of receiving some of her money. This is when she is forced to disguise herself as Shui Ta, her crude male cousin. She then falls in love with Yang Sun who she saves from suicide. After they plan to get married, Yang admits to Shui Ta that he is after Shen Te’s money and does not plan to marry.

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