An Overview of Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage

            Bertolt Brecht, In Mother Courage, challenges the accepted concepts of three major values of western society: capitalism, religion, and heroes. He shows how capitalism is flawed by the actions Mother Courage does in order to sustain herself. He challenges religion by showing the hypocrisy of its leaders. Brecht rejects the traditional notion of a hero as being obsolete and presents in the story two examples of traditional heroism and the outcome.

             Mother Courage represents the people who struggle to survive in a capitalist system. As a result of her position, she has to be greedy, impersonal, and solely interested in the welfare of her business. Brecht does intend that Mother Courage be seen a proponent of the capitalist system, but as being a victim of the system, working for basic survival. "They call me Courage, sergeant, because when I saw ruin staring me in the face I drove out of Riga through cannon fire with fifty loaves of bread in my wagon. They were getting moldy, I had no choice.” An example of Mother Courage's greediness is when Swiss Cheese is caught as a Protestant soldier. Mother Courage's primary concern is to bribe the Catholics for the release of Swiss Cheese with as little money as possible. Her haggling takes too long and Swiss Cheese is executed before she can come to an agreeable bribe with the Catholics. Another situation in which money is placed before human life is at the end of the story when the Catholics are about to attack Halle: Young Peasant: "You can kill me. I won't do it.” First Soldier: "I know what'll make him think twice. Two cows and an ox. Get this: If you don't help us, I'll cut them down.” This threat persuades the young peasant to show the Catholics how to get to the town. To the peasant, the threat of loss of livelihood of his family is more drastic than the loss of his own life. By these situations, Brecht demonstrates how capitalism forces people to shift their values from personal and human concerns to monetary concerns.

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