It would be unfair to judge Mother Courage based on a surface level glimpse of her actions; for though she repeatedly chooses her business over her children, it is only to survive in the capitalistic and war-impoverished society that they live in. Entangled in the dialectical relationship of being both a mother and a capitalist, Courage struggles to find a way to ensure the survival and well being of her children. Rorrison makes an excellent point in his statement, “Brecht intended her to be an object lesson in misplaced energy”; he is, of course, referring to her habit of choosing her business over her family. By including such situations where the limited options grow ever slimmer and the probability of a zero sum game rages on, the play demonstrates that though her actions and behaviors could have been different, the outcome for Mother Courage and her family would have been the same; it does this in order to both prove that capitalism is antithetical to human relationships as it only benefits the ones in charge and to also call for government reform.
Right from the start, it becomes apparent that Mother Courage faces unfavorable choices; when a sergeant and recruiting officer question the origin of her name, she explains, “They call me Mother Courage ‘cause I was afraid I’d be ruined so I drove through the bombardment of Riga like a madwoman, with fifty loaves of bread in my cart. They were going moldy, what else could I do?” (1.25) This last sentence is extremely significant because it pinpoints Mother Courage’s resilience to make capitalism work for her. Though she endangers her children by having them go along with her, she knows that it won’t only be her wh...
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...his quote, Brecht offers an insightful remark: “To be good, yet live.” How strange and counterintuitive it must seem that those with the most amiable qualities perish, while those that are corrupted by greed are left to survive. Of course, the individuals are not to blame, for they are merely a reflection of the society that they live in. Therefore, there needs to be change not just in the way society functions as a whole - in terms of capitalism- but how it serves the individuals that depend on it, so as not to create inequity between the two. Once this is accomplished, the poor will no longer “need courage” as Mother Courage mentions (6.77)
Brecht, Bertolt. Brecht on Theater. Ed. and Trans. John Willett. New York: Hill and Wang, 1964.
Rorrison, Hugh. "Introduction" Mother Courage and Her Children. Trans. John Willett. New York: Methuen, 2010.
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