Brecht's intentions when writing Mother Courage were to communicate his beliefs and make people aware of two major issues facing society: war and capitalism. According to Brecht, people deserve the wars they get if they subscribe to a political system that is unfair and favors a specific sector of society, namely capitalism, in which it is up to the individual to secure his own means of survival. In other words, if the system is unjust in any way, war and conflict is inevitable. For this to be understood, it would be essential that the audience see the play for what it is, as opposed to becoming engaged in its story. This means that they would have to be alienated from the play, and made perpetually aware of it as a play and nothing more. To do this, Brecht jolted audiences out of their expectations and deliberately avoided theatrical techniques that would make appearances realistic. In this way, people were forced to confront the issues at hand and decipher the meanings behind what they were being shown.
The "obvious" being referred to by Brecht is what is clearly seen, what one cannot miss. It does not require reflection and arouses no thought. By alienating the audience in this play, they see that nothing is happening at an obvious level, and can gain true understanding of the characters' reasons for behaving as they do, and of the background against which they exist.
Brecht incorporated alienation techniques in the methods of staging used in performances of Mother Courage, firstly by keeping a very bright white light trained evenly upon the set throughout. This eliminated any opportunities for creating an atmosphere; any magical or romantic views of ...
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...rinciples Brecht believed in: unless man has food and shelter, he does not have freedom. This tenet is what Brecht asserts in Mother Courage, and whose understanding can only be gained when audiences realise that the obvious is an irrelevance, that this play should be seen not as a tale but as a presenting of issues. By using the aspects of character, song, structure, style, inevitability, and staging, Brecht ensures that the audience remains alienated, and that their expectations are not met.
Works Cited and Consulted
Brecht, Bertolt. "Mother Courage and Her Children." Worthen 727-751.
Cook, Ellen Piel, ed. Women, Relationships, and Power. Virginia: American Counseling Association, 1993.
Hwang, Henry David. "M. Butterfly." Worthen 1062-1084.
Worthen, W.B. ed. The Harcourt Brace Anthology of Drama. 3rd ed. Toronto: Harcourt, 1993.
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