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Elisabeth Sunday, 12 May 2013

"Mother Courage" by Bertolt Brecht

Bertolt Brecht's drama "Mother Courage" is often seen as the paradox of the traditional image of mothers in society.
"But are we stubbornly narrow-minded, like Mother Courage? She does love her children, but in the end she is driven by money and commercial interests."
Brecht's epic play is set during the Thirty Years' War: Anna Fierling, an enterprising sutler, makes a living by following soldiers and armies and selling them goods. Set in the years from 1624 to 1636, her cart serves as a recurring theme: at first well stocked with goods, but towards the end empty with its canvas torn. Mother Courage lives off the war, using her trade to feed her children. But they ultimately perish as a result of the many contradictions in their mother's thinking and actions. Eilif, the eldest son, becomes a soldier and pays with his life for his bravery. The second son, Swiss Cheese, becomes a victim of his own honesty amidst the turmoil of war – he also has to die. And finally Kattrin, the daughter, perishes after suffering physically and mentally from the war. Mother Courage's attitude towards life ultimately has deadly consequences for all her family. The conflict between business interests and human emotions cannot be resolved under the rules imposed by society. In some scenes, Mother Courage appears to recognize the commercial character of warfare but she is unable to change her behaviour, even after she has lost all her children to the war. This is also demonstrated by her final words: "Got to get back in business again." Brecht's intention was to enrage the audience about Anna Fierling's ignorance and to make people realize that in war there can be no winners, only losers. The author succeeded in creating a deeply moral drama which is also contemporary in the sense that its message is still valid today. But are we stubbornly narrow-minded, like Mother Courage? She does love her children, but in the end she is driven by money and commercial interests. The play has an unusual but thought-provoking message so close to Mother's Day – not just for mothers but even more so for society as a whole. However, one thing which always has been and always will be just as important and highly appropriate is a "thank you" to our mothers, especially on Mother's Day.

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