Analysis of Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children | Commodification
Commodification of War in Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children |
Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children is the story of duties and responsibilities in the hand of woman. It depicts the issue of women’s roles, their motherly and familial protection upon children as well as doing business during the time of thirty years war for survival. It is the claim of male guided by patriarchal mentality that ultimately leads Mother Courage far from the reality. She is a mere agent of war.
Marxists claim insights into human behavior involve the damaging effects of capitalism on human psychology and those damaging effects often exhibit in our relationship to the commodity. For Marxism, an object’s value lies not in what it to do – use value, but in the money or other objects for which it can be traded – exchange value or in the social status it confers on its owner – sign exchange value. An object becomes commodity only when it has exchange value or sign exchange value, and both forms of value are determined by the society in which the object is exchanged. For instance, Mother Courage invests the essential merchandises such as: weapons, medicine, bandage, food and clothes during the time of war and sells them to the soldiers. She does not use those directly but sells them in good amount and uses the money come from the business. So, it has exchange value. In other words, she commodifies the war time when she buys it as a financial investment, that is, with the thinking of selling it for more money, or when she buys it to impress other people with her refined taste. To sell the items in the name of war has exchange value or sign exchange value. So war is commodity for Mother Courage’s eyes. To read Mother Courage’s activity seems working class character with exchange value. With the profit of business she is maintaining her domestic problems. Here, she has no relation to conspicuous consumption. She as a seller lies in the category of haves; on the contrary as a worker she depends in war to profit and protect the children and war is a subsistence of life; hence have-nots.
From the beginning of the play war’s commodification is like corporation in the economic field. As such, the first appearance of Mother Courage is accompanied by her dumb daughter on her canteen wagon, drawn her two sons, to join the new war. Mother Courage is completely anxious about the safety of her sons. Her fear of war is outstripped by her hope of business prospects. The contradiction remains in the fact that she wants to maintain her family by means of the war while keeping them safely out of it. She is careful on the premature death of soldiers. On finding that recruiting officers and Sergeant are very interested to sign up her sons in the military force, she wants them doing against doing any such other thing. She says to the Sergeant that “a soldier’s life is not for sons of mine” (7). Stating to her elder son Eilif, Courage argues that “this one is just a baby. You will die him like a lamb to the slaughter” (8). Mother Courage with these dictions also fortunes with black crosses is a sly manoeuvre to prevent her sons from being recruited, first by putting off the Sergeant and then by conflicting her own children. Despite this, the war takes away Mother Courage’s elder son Eilif. The conflict between mother’s love and her keen business suggests the patriarchal mentality which contaminated the whole system. It is a disagreement upon female’s decision. Eilif as a male character inclines toward patriarchy. So, he does not see any problem with the way things currently are.
Disagreement between feminists and non-feminists can occur with respect of both the normative and descriptive claims as well, e.g., some non-feminists agree with feminists on the ways women ought to be viewed and treated, but do not observe any hardship with the series the action happens. Others disagree about the background ethic or political views. For the obvious conflict on schematic account of feminism, Susan Edward specifies feminism as:
Under the umbrella of this general characterization there are, however, many interpretations of women and their oppression, so that it is a mistake to think of feminism as a single philosophical doctrine, or as implying an agreed political program. (176)
From these lines Edward is presenting the idea of “oppression” and “disadvantage” as polemical form for substantive account of injustice over which feminists disagree.
To view Mother Courage with the wagon as an inventory seller through Marxist feminism is a source of plight at woman in society. It impacts implicitly that males are superior to the females. To look it in another angle; female’s occupation is challenging task because no woman in the war may risk the life in business. It is mainly because she is profiting from war as a stakeholder. In this logic war is commoditized in the hand of Mother Courage. She in this moment is shown constantly in a double perspective as an object both of criticism and of sympathy. She is criticized for her entrepreneurial approach to “war as an opportunity to gain” (2).
In course of time Courage has been travelling for the sake of business through Poland with the Second Finnish Regiment of the Swedish armies. The scene adjusts two concurrent actions which converge briefly at the end. The first is that Courage is looked in hard haggling with the Commander’s Cook over the sale of a capon. She explores how quick profits can be made in war time by seizing the right moment to inflate prices. This scenario also reflects through narrative, how Eilif displayed his bravery by stealing the cattle of peasants which will serve as food for the Swedish soldiers. The Commander highly felicitates the mighty deeds of Eilif.
For Marxist feminists, gender oppression in class oppression women’s subordination is seen as a form of class oppression. To analyze women’s situation in society understanding of socio-economic context is the prime requisite. Marxist feminism connects the oppression of women to Marxist ideas about exploitation, oppression and labor. It also is the belief that women’s situation cannot be understood in isolation from its socio-economic context, and that any meaningful improvement in the lines of women requires that this context of changed. In regards, Althusser opines, “we live in class society that is also structured by gender, which means that men and women experience class in different ways” (258).
The play Mother Courage and Her Children mentions Mother Courage’s youngest son, Swiss Cheese is now working as a cashier with the Second Finnish Regiment. Scene 2 shows some successes of war, whereas scene 3 reflects its ravages clearly emphasizing the false result of the action. Mother Courage is explaining the backdrop of war in the scene. There is sudden unexpected attack by the Catholic army upon the Second Swedish (Protestant) regiment which being unprepared for battle has to flee. Besides the sudden attack of Catholic soldiers on the Protestant regiment, there is a lot of actions and suspense in scene 3. The endeavor of Swiss Cheese with the regimental cash box, the endeavor of Swiss Cheese to save the cash box of his regiment and prevent it from falling into the hands of enemy, the arrest of Swiss Cheese by Catholic Sergeant, the desperate efforts of Mother Courage to save the life of Swiss Cheese, the active role played by Yvette in the whole affair etc. are the series which greatly excite the attention of audiences.
Marxist feminism is a sub-type of feminist theory which focuses on the dismantling of capitalism as a way of liberating women. Marxist feminism states that the private property which gives rise to economic inequality, dependence, political confusion and ultimately unhealthy social relation between men and women is the root of women’s oppression in the current social context. Marxist feminism’s foundation is led by Friedrich Engels in his analysis of gender oppression in The Origins of The Family, Private Property and the State. He claims that a woman’s subordination is not result of her biologic disposition but of social relations, and that the institution of family as it exists is a complex system in which men command women’s service. But, a little different some critics stress the main strain of feminist movement strongly refuses the cultural definition of women which tries to fix women’s identity which the male dominated canon, “Marxist feminist criticism the way which literature or other cultural production reinforces or undermines to economic, political, social or psychological oppression to empower the women on the way the male want them to be” (81). The lines by Lois Tyson clarify the multi-aspects of duties and challenges.
Brecht’s technique achieves by presenting mother courage’s stoical manner that she fully engaged in her work, as such she endures the death of body of Swiss Cheese without flinching. In this point she is indebted toward war and seems different while reading the play. “The capitalists take double advantages by domestic exploitation and depending on their wages as well” (73). In terms of Marxist theory Heidi Hartmann in the essay Women’s Oppression Today forwards women’s significant appearance; they sit on the sidelines of the grand struggle between capital and labors. Marxist claims capitalism in relation to exploitation of matter, which in turn are woman. In capitalistic background one takes advantages on double ground, domestic exploitation that is condition of Swiss Cheese and also having debate of war vis-à-vis to sell their wages.
Marxist feminist has extended traditional Marxist analysis by looking at domestic labor as well as wage work in order to support their position. Marxist feminists agree that domination of women by men is in timely connected with patriarchal capitalism because patriarchy and capitalism are mutually supportive. Within the household chores, women produce labor power in the sense of bearing children and caring their husband who are workers, which supports men but the women do not get benefits of their domestic works. Commenting on the operation of patriarchy Sheila Ruth writes:
Patriarchy is probably the oldest forms of exploitation of one part of population by another. It probably has also served as the model for all other forms of relation, by then on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion of class, such system is established, those in the high caste positions in this case males develop a vested interests in the maintenance of the basic structure and their own advantaged status […] the short run interest of males as males, and perhaps more importantly, as traders of political, economic, cultural institutions are best served by maintaining and reinforcing their traditional gender roles. (115)
Marxist feminism tries to find similarities between male and female in the family or bourgeoisie and proletariat in society. Husband, father or male member is like bourgeoisie in the society and wife in a family is like a proletariat in society. It does not mean that women are suffering with in family but family itself is initiating unit for woman domination.
Marxist feminists base their argument on moral rights and wrong in reference to the corruption of wage labor that is in itself an expression of oppression, that the workers are inevitably enslaved under a system of production where deprived of knowledge and skill, they are reduced practically to nothing. Following the doctrine, Gayle Rubin writes in the essay The Traffic in Woman: Notes on the Political Economy of Sex argues:
The exchange between capital and labor which produces surplus value, and hence capital is highly specific. The worker gets a wage; the capitalist gets the things the worker has made during his or her time of employment. If the total value of the things the worker has made exceeds the value of his or her wage, the aim of capitalism has been achieved. (229)
This can occur because the wage is determined not by the value of what the laborer makes, but by the value of what it makes to him or her going – to reproduce him or her from day to day, and to reproduce the entire work force from one generation to next.
Women’s exploitation is everywhere. Before and after marriage women become the victim of sexual and other physical exploitation. Marxist feminist compares sex to work. Capital to men and work to women and whatever business is done by women assumed weightless and wage- less. There is no desire for women’s joy and rights. Engels sees such desire, marriage and exploitation as a form of prostitution. It should not be limited to sexual services sold by the prostitute wife. Friedrich Engels needs some room in the system:
The pairing family, itself too weak and unstable to make an independent household necessary or even desirable, in no wise destroys the communistic household inherited from earlier times. Communistic housekeeping, however, means the supremacy of women in the house, just as the exclusive recognition of the female parent, owing to the impossibility of recognizing the male parent with certainty, means that the women – the mothers, should be in high respect. (89)
From the above quote women’s confined field in between of four walls should be edited from tradition to present. If such happens only the then society becomes educated. Thus, Marxism needs equal respect male and female having their categorical doings outside or inside the house.
When a society moves through the lesson plan of male, at such, females’ jobs are taken outside the plan. Sex in relation to females and their outdoor business put in the backdrop of males. As the workers in the factory, females also put in the same balance for the purpose of children, husbands and other domestic chores as voluntary agent. “Workers work very hard for the production of the factory and produce a large quantity but none of them get name or any other mark of their individual contribution” (Tyson 58). So, the workers are alienated from the production. They find the work unpleasant but they are bound to do their work. “Workers’ humanization becomes the actual source of his or her dehumanization; the worker is bound to undergo a major psychological crisis” (Tong 44). Therefore workers are alienated from the human beings as well, because they see around them their co-workers as competition for job and promotion as the capitalist system encourages. This sense of competition for job and promotion alienate workers from co-workers. In this system, finally workers are alienated from the nature itself, “because the kind of work they do and condition under which they do, it make them see nature as an obstacle to their survival” (Tong 44). So, they are alienated from natural itself also because of capitalistic economic system. Therefore the most important aspect for elimination of alienation is the eradication of capitalism.
Mother Courage while dealing with her intention of business, she is far from societal harmony, celebration and other cultural aspects. Along with this the weather of time has also the same. Winter season needs people to make cool and cool but other characters go against it. The Chaplain while discussing with Courage about time converts as patriarchal mentality:
The Chaplain: Courage I have often thought that your dry way of talking conceals more than just a warm heart. You too are human and need warmth.
Mother Courage: Best way for us to get this tent warm is plenty of firewood. (11)
From the dialogue there is a gap in perspectives where the Chaplain wants to talk climate of physical warm but it is not understood by Courage. It shows that in capitalist market how the women are deepened in busy life. There is devoid of basic entertainment and ritual motives. So, it is exploitation.
Along with the hot bargaining in her business, the side of army once has deprived to buy the essential items from Courage. The environment in the scene features another extended scene is that of exchange: the pawing of the canteen. The camp prostitute, Yvette exchanging her body with the money to buy the canteen from Mother Courage seems her status that how she falls in capitalism. The strategy adds mother Courage to buy her son’s life. In the Model Book, Brecht presents Yvette’s Colonel as a “negative entity”, a lustful whose primary function is to demonstrate, somewhat violently, and the price Yvette pays for her work:
Yvette: Yes my friend thinks I should clinch it, but I’m not sure. If its only a pledge … so you agree we ought to buy outright?
Colonel: I agree, pet.
Mother Courage: Best look and see if you can find anything for sale then; maybe you will if you don’t rush it, take your friend along with you, say a week or fortnight, might find something suits you.
Yvette: Then lets go looking. I adore going around looking for things, I adore going around with you, Poldi, isn’t such fun; isn’t it? No matter if it takes a fortnight. How soon would you pay the money back if you got it? (13)
In Marxist society women are regarded as a step ahead than men, where there is women work or action becomes a sample option. Sample option takes good market for business. That is why in the section of parlor, visiting room, and reception their face can be seen in large number. It is good omen in the steps of men. The character Yvette in the case of pawing of the canteen has appeared uniquely. Her role in such a case seems a little different. As a prostitute she can earn money and fulfill her physical needs. Prostitution on another perspective is a labor:
In fact, her own sexual activity would probably have passed unnoticed in a man (she married twice and had two other recorded affairs) and she certainly never advocated promiscuity. She did however hold the view, then through shocking in woman, that sex was neither sinful nor shameful, but that it could be a high form of human activity, and she showed sympathetic tolerance for the sexual experimentation that characterized the chaotic post-revolutionary years, in which rejection of bourgeoisie values was equated by some with rejection of all sexual restrain. (Bryson 139)
The above mentioned lines get rid out the message that in society some rules are applied for woman and men categorically, but a few women do not care them and surpass them easily in the name of pleasure and rights. They think that pleasure (sex) is neither sinful nor shameful. In the manner of sex they become sympathetic and submissive. At such remark women as proletariat go against bourgeoisie values that are equated by some despite of social restrains.
Another issue related to Mother Courage regards the war as indispensible (because is source of livelihood) yet, she knows herself a bitter foe of the war. She wants the war to continue because she is earning her livelihood from it, and yet she knows of the great damage the war has done to her personally. Mother Courage then goes to say, “I’ll not see Swiss Cheese again and where my Eilif is Good Lord knows. Curse the war!”(25). Mother Courage asserts that her need of war destroys the weak people. She communicates to the Cook that the peace has broken her neck. She whole-heartedly admires it and speaks, “I want let you spoil war for me. If war does destroy the weak, peace does nothing better than that war in fact feeds the people better than peace does” (25).
Mother Courage supports that the war brings prosperity even though it employs arms and ammunitions which cause great devastation. War needs fighters and they may be killed during the war, and so, meet premature deaths. Yet, war is a ‘business proposition.’ Here, again we realize the two fold nature of war. Mother Courage is aware of both these aspects of war.
Brecht tries to glance women differently. Being categorized Courage behaves like same; like a hyena of the battle field. She shows her insensitivity towards the wounded persons when she refuses to give away her costly shorts to be torn into bandages for the wounded Protestants of the city which had been attacked and plundered by the catholic forces of General Tilly. Here we find her lacking almost completely inhuman feelings. When the Chaplain insists on getting the shirts from her, she says to him, “ I can’t give you any, with all I have to pay taxes, duties, bribes […] ” (46).
Mother Courage supports song in the scene 7, reflects her desire for the continuity of war. Here, Mother Courage pronounces of a war as a ‘business proposition’ which involves not the purchase and sale of cheese but the firing of guns. She says:
War is a business proposition
Not with cream cheese but steel and lead
Hurries to dig themselves grave. (26)
Furthermore, Mother Courage is not communicated any ethical lesson for herself from this destructiveness of war. It is a song; Brecht uses new technique that adds spice in Mother Courage and Her Children. By the way of song Courage becomes full awareness of the fact that a war kills people prematurely and that the soldiers, who dig a trench to be safe against the enemy attack. It draws the lesson for herself and earns her livelihood by selling merchandise to them. She welcomes the continuance or prolongation of war.
In terms of feminist politics, this implies a liquidity which identifies the historical specificity of any situation and the possibilities to which it gives rise; socialist and modern Marxist priorities and tactics are not therefore to be written in tablets of stone, but must be based on a realistic appraisal of existing circumstances. Nevertheless an agreed key area is the struggle over conditions of production, for here Marxist feminists are working demands on both as women and as workers. In similar background Engels says, “When women workers achieve a living ways, they are not just workers winning a concession from capitalism, they are also women winning economic independence from men” (90). This struggle must however be extended to include conditions of social reproduction and the sexual division of labor; this may include demands for sexual autonomy, reproductive rights and new forms of family organization. These may in turn involve conflicts with both the state and individual men within the home; such political or personal struggles are not however to be understood in isolation, for gains made at these levels are seen to acquire meaning only in a wider social and economic context, with favoring it Rubin tells, “a kinship system is an imposition of social ends upon a part of the natural world” (233). This means that many modern Marxist feminists, legal gains and mainstream political are not to be written off as mere formalities that conceal the unchanging realities of patriarchal oppression, like: the family and workplace, the law and state institutions are ‘arenas of struggle’ in which battles may be fought and real gains won; in line with modern Marxist thought many also see the struggle over ideology as of critical importance. In all of these areas women may find themselves working with men or class issues or supported by men in their feminists demands; many are however prepared to see men as potential enemies in some areas of sex as well as allies in others and therefore advocate autonomous women’s organizations along with participation in existing structure.
To analyze that, why women fall in the exploitation of men is mainly because the established socio-political and cultural practices. In case of Mother Courage and Her Children the scenario of 1920s women situation was loose because it was the post war era whereas the environment was in reconstruction process. The impact of war was over women. Who was in bold in manner that person would rule over women through society as well as common people. “The marriage of Marxism and feminism has been like the marriage of husband and wife and depicted in this common law, Marxism and feminism are the one that is Marxism” (607). To go these lines of Heidi Hartmann, it is the husband (man) who represents power – Marxism and wife represents feminism in the situated culture.
The Peasant’s wife (weeps): Please spare our cattle, captain; it’d be starving us to death.
The ensign: They’re dead if he goes on being obstinate.
First Soldier: I’m taking the ox first.
The Young Peasant (to his father): Have I got to? (The wife nods.) Right.
The Peasant’s wife: And thank you kindly, caption, for sparing us, forever and ever, Amen. (36)
When the war was moving in one night in January 1636, a Catholic Lieutenant and three soldiers entered into the Peasant’s village with full armor, the villagers were fully frightened. The Old Peasant by its cause climbs on the roof and spies a Catholic regiment, which has killed the watchman and readies for a surprise attack on the town. The soldiers demand to God for peace but it is not the demand of Courage. Peasant’s Wife and Ensign want to save their life and castles. They are starving and under the roof of death by the cause of war’s devastation.
From the analysis of Marxist feminism that the oppression of women in capitalist society must be situated within the oppression of women throughout the world, and that male domination elongates far beyond this context. Again socialist revolution is not of itself achieve women’s liberation and freedom. Michele Barrett stresses also the intimate networks between economic oppression and the “role of familial and domestic ideology,” as well as the changing form of the family organization during and since the transition from feudalism to capitalism. The most significant elements, then, of the oppression of women under capitalism are “the economic organization of households and its accompanying familial ideology, the division of labor and relations of productions, the educational system and the operations of the state,” as well as the processes of creations and recreations of gender subjects.
Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children depicts male female dichotomy in various sect. Alongside with war Mother Courage wants to be far from community’s periphery. She in this manner moving confidently through different battle fields despite the war’s trouble. In course of this trip she has devoid of male company to save the children and her coming days. To observe it from the next eye it or seems questionable that the business is in horizontal slope. Furthermore, there comes the appraisal of real motif. From the canteen wagon one can not support the four members in a roof. But modern Marxism claims that she as a responsible mother being subverting the parochial thinking on male female dichotomy. Here, Simon the Beauvior explores her argument from the book The Second Sex (1949). Male ideology makes women the second sex. Women are made inferior by society and culture. That is why she goes like this: women are not born as women, but made women” (995). The book by Beauvior is an overall account of the then made women and their aspects in the eyes of males.
In Marxist analysis one class presses on another, for all the aiming to procure respect on account of their property; and property once gained will procure the respect due only to talents and virtue. Men neglect the duties incumbent on woman, yet are treated like demigods. Faith is also excluded from morality by an opportunistic veil yet men wonder that the world is almost, literally speaking, and a den of oppressors.
Brechitan technique of singing the song is an indomitable feature to the play. While the scene moves ahead women’s condition is smoothly exhibiting through war. But the song of Courage it can care and make easy of all lives, so long as guns and swords are available. Courage sings:
War can care for all its people
So long as there is steel and lead
Though steel and lead are stout supporters
A war needs human beings too
Report today to your head quarters!
If it’s to last, this war needs you! (26)
Once again we find that financial optimism in Mother Courage’s mind. She tells the Cook that the end of war has broken her neck. It is a song in praise of war and handling it too through her line. This song also invites people to sign up from the military force.
After the song, ideology can be seen in haggling policy in the play frequently. Ideology moves through language which is equated to songs that works as a weapon for the ruling class and perpetuates the same imposed thought upon them. Courage as a wagon seller known as haves and whoever jumbles around this sect are have-nots. That is why it is a relation of bourgeoisie and proletariat. She as a Marxist feminist is on the summit and rescuing the base. At another axis she is a meat bringer in the family. If Courage does not run the business as a worker there comes more problems in the whole system. Despite where she belongs, the function of such relation can be seen through her interest of particular class, product of the position and sustainable legitimacy. In this regard the revisionist Marxist thinker Louis Althusser argues:
Ideology manifests itself in different ways in the discourse of each of the semi autonomous institutions of an era, including a literature, and also the ideology operated to form the position the users of language as the “subjects” in a discourse, in a way that in facts subjects them – that is subordinates them to the interests of the ruling classes.” (183)
An ideology is the product of position and interest of a particular class that is male in our society. In any historical period, the dominant ideology embodies and serves to proof the continuance interests of the dominant social class that is female.
So, by the continuation of war, as the play moves ahead, amidst it scene 7 describes the death of the Swedish king Gustavus in 1632. The Swedish king Gustavus has been killed in the battle of Lutzen, but the war is not over. This only brings about the temporary ‘outbreak of peace’ which has ironic consequences.
Brecht, then, includes the concluding point of where the imperial army plans to cover more and more territories. It also presents the effects of the war. The war has lasted sixteen years and is still continuing. German has suffered heavy losses in terms of both human and material resources. The country is going through very hard times. The hunger raging town has burnt down, and famine staring the people in their forces. Half of the citizens have been killed while rest is by plague. The once paradise country now appears the desert area.
Women are, in common with man, rendered weak and luxurious by the relaxing pleasures which wealth procures; but added to this they are made slaves to their persons, and must render them alluring that man may lend them his reason to guide their tottering steps aright. Or should they be ambitious, they must govern their tyrants by sinister tricks, for without rights there cannot be any incumbent duties. The laws respecting woman make an absurd unit of a man and his wife; and then, by the easy transition of only considering him as responsible, she is reduced to a mere cipher.
The last remaining part reconfigurates the history faithfully in reflecting both the scene of unclarity cum despair. Scene 11 describes the fact the war is continuing. It is now the month of January in 1636. The Catholic troops has been having the upper hand, and the time, they pose a grave threat to the Protestant town of Halle. They are launching a surprise attack on it in darkness of the night in order to destroy the town and its inhabitants including the innocent children. Thus, there seems to be no end of war yet.
Gender is a socially imposed division of the sexes. It is a product of the social relations of sexuality. Kinship systems rest upon marriage. They therefore transform males and females into “men” and “women”, each an incomplete half which can only find wholeness when united with the other. To envision the play the main character Mother Courage and other secondary characters like Yvette and Kattrin are not with male company. Because in Marxist reading women assume capital is equal to the male partner. Furthermore, they that is why far from the husband, relative and other nearer. Men and women therefore are different. But they are not as different as day and night, earth and sky, material and spiritual. In fact, from the stand point of nature men and women are closure to each other than either is to anything else-for instance mountains, kangaroos, or coconut palms. In specific terms that are men and women are more different from one another than either is from anything else must come from somewhere other than nature. There will always be some women who are higher than some men, for instance, even though men are on the average higher than women. But the idea that men and women are two mutually exclusive categories must rise out of something other than a nonexistent natural position.
In the play, the historic personalities like King Gustavus, Tilly and Oxensterna are in the play’s surroundings. The historical events are distanced by a mere passing, mentioned in the synopsis of scenes or displayed in placards where the narrative voice is that of the impersonal chronicles. Against this as background, the repercussions of events on the lines of little people are fully acted out on the stage creating a dialectical tension between reportage and dramatic action. While historians of thirty years war have given sufficient importance to its religious fanaticism, Brecht underrates this aspect for the sake of attributing economic and political motivation to the warmongers. It was Brecht’s strategy that capitalism was a system of economic exploitation which perpetrated wars; that was the continuation of big business of other means. In his note to the play Mother Courage and Her Children Brecht mentions:
The thirty years war was one of the large scale wars waged by capitalism over Europe in the name of war of religion and that war was the continuation of big business by other means. It portrays the essentiality of life and future gleans of happy enrollment. (87)
The conditions of Europe in 1938 when Brecht wrote this play seemed to indicate to him that capitalism was about to launch another large scale war with the same motif, manifesting itself in the rise of Nazism under the claptrap of Hitler. The spread of the thirty years war all over the continent of Europe seemed to indicate to Brecht that this time too if a war did break out, it would spread to all the countries of Europe. The destruction of Magdeburg was only one example of the kind of brutality which a war perpetrated. He wanted to convey his audiences the lesson that, “capitalism shouldn’t only be curbed but destroyed so that the economic, social and political welfare of the people could be ensured” (100). He also wants to express the idea that the defeats and victories in a war affect only the chaps at the top and not the chaps at the bottom. The plight of Mother Courage is the plight of poor classes under a capitalist form of the society. The fate of the three children symbolizes the fate of proletariat under the roof of capitalist system. Moreover, in the song of great capitulation, Mother Courage urges a common soldier to surrender to his captain in a mood of helplessness “of a proud man who joined the army and quickly came to submit to its discipline and ultimate capitulation” (19). This symbolizes the predicament of the common people under a capitalist design.
Taking the voice of marginalized class, the Young Man in the play there is no existence in war’s time. “Mother, its peace. What’s the matter?” (30). When the town was driven by the lot of Lutherans, no one does better solution as if there were the security of armies. At such a point Courage and those peasants and workers are own business. To go through Marxist line they should raise up for freedom as well as against oppression.
According to Marxist interpretation economic infrastructure is linked in day to day activities. In spite of war’s impact has shown in the characters like Mother Courage, Cook and Chaplain share regarded nationalist intention about the war that the king only received to liberate the Poles and Germans from the tyrannical Kaiser and had to retaliate when so unreasonably attacked by these nations. As Courage notes that the Cook is no Swede. The war, as the play suggests throughout, is about profit. Thus, the economic metaphor is very appropriate, because the king got nothing but trouble for his outlays and goodness, forcing him to taxes back home. On the contrary of king’s side war includes warriors and they have given their life for the country. It is faith that leads courage in battlefield.
The Cook: Very true. It’s a war all right in one sense that requisitioning, murder looting and the odd bit of rape thrown in, but different from all other wars because it’s a war of faith stands to reason. But its thirsty work at that, you must admit. (10)
War is a faith despite it has the features of looting, rape and losing the life. One should with faith behind it only then it can be true in the capitalistic circle.
Women consume economic goods. What economic products do they give in exchange for what they consume? The claim that marriage is a partnership, in which the two persons married produced wealth which neither of them, separately, could produce, will not bear examination. A man happy and comfortable can produce more than one unhappy and uncomfortable, but this is as true of a son or father as of a husband. To take from a man any of the conditions which make him happy and strong is to cripple his industry, generally speaking. But those relatives who make him happy are not therefore his business partners, and entitled to share his economic income.
Marxist only deal with family relation, prostitution and life problem but also raise the voice, how to solve them in patriarchal context but males do not raise the issues on problems, shortcomings and their labor. They always take support by female without any money. It means females are supporting materials of males. In this point, prostitution comes in the mind of males. Before marriage if a women puts her relations with a man is illegal; it’s patriarchal norm. Parents also want to set their children in good house. Mother courage as a guardian says, “I promised her she would get a husband soon as peace came” (50). The dumb Kattrin in her marriage age has affected by male’s society. She has desire to sex and pleasure but none is near to her. Money does everything in male’s life but not for females. Lack of money is the curse for the females of some participation. Women are that’s why compelled to adopt profession of red light job, “when a man took women, he came to live in her household activities” (Tong 47). Men exploit women in the home and pay less than sufficient survival. So, to survive in the society women are compelled to sleep with the next person who gives extra money.
Wage earning is a form of oppression that the workers are inevitably enslaved under a system of production where, deprived of knowledge and skill, they are reduced practically to nothing. Following the doctrine, Marxists are opposed to any social or political action that perpetuates the enslavement and oppression of members of the work force. “Prostitution is a form of labor and therefore has been specifically noted as falling under the designation of corruption of wage labor” (302). Sheila Ruth borrowing the words from Marxism and takes advantages to proof the problems imposed upon females. The word ‘prostitution’ is a plural word that according to her all kinds of inequalities; which seem in various forms: marriage, rape, assist, speaking and language too. Men do mistakes upon females, thinking they are doing well. But for Marxist feminists it is always partial and negation. In Brecht’s play – Mother Courage and Her Children, all the characters in the stage are working class people, they are in the command of politicians or leaders or kings. At such a moment their intention seems to seize the day of war in various strategy. In this location war is appeared like a commodity.
The epic form of play gives the new trend to the story. Whatever challenges and problems have shown in different levels, they are helping tools to read the play from Marxist feminism. Marxist feminists raise their voice from the margin and more specifically from suppression and labor. So, epic theatre adds more stress in the path of Mother Courage and other female characters in the play; hence novelty. In this venue, there is collaboration between these two issues.
There are two songs in scene 12, the concluding section. One is lullaby sung by Mother Courage to Kattri. Mother Courage has realized that Kattrin has fallen asleep. Fancing the girl to be asleep is only the loving mother’s fond illusion. She, here, builds up a false but pleasing image of her daughter’s good fortune as compared to the neighbor’s children who are dressed in dirty clothes and are starving. This lullaby demonstrates Mother Courage’s anxiety to please her daughter with illusory joys. She also remembers the tragedy which had befallen her in the death of her younger son Swiss Cheese, and she is also aware of her misfortune in not knowing what has happened to her next son.
Furthermore, next song in the final scene ends with all those soldiers collectively. The soldiers here echo the song which we heard in the very opening scene from Mother Courage. The soldiers are fully aware of the surprises, dangers and devastations brought about by the war. They are also aware of the fact that the war is interminable; “the war takes hold and will not quite” (41). At the same time, the soldiers know that they themselves are going to get nothing out of war and that they may not even be paid their wages. The war may last in three generations. They would most probably die in the course of the war but get nothing out of it. They sing:
Only a miracle can save us / And miracles have had their day. (41)
It serves to increase the gloom and hopelessness resulted by the war which still in run. The song is also closely related to the theme of the play.
Having lost the children one after another Mother Courage equally seems bold into her policy for haggling and initially negating her daughter’s death, she quickly disposesher dead body to the march: “I must get back into business” (42). Thus, she explores her motif and takes up the wagon, drawing it across an empty stage and she moves in circular wave. Recalling all the gone subjects she seems with a damned soul who works endlessly at the business of war.
Therefore, in this play war is related to business in capitalistic purpose. It sets freedom but does not experience reality. War is encroached through Mother Courage’s activities in particular and others in general. In family and outside, their voices do not get any place where their children, husband, relatives and male members and ultimately the hindrances in their way. That is why those figure for women are dictators. Therefore females feel alienated from community. Mother Courage Yvette, Kattrin all these women are forced to suffer because they are not economically independent.
To weed out this tendency, women should get freedom from economic dependency. Women should first understand their outside system of how they have been exploited. Brecht, here, by making them awareness in class consciousness from the false consciousness made by males, only then they can raise their voice against that false consciousness. Economic independency is not easy task to go forward through such obstacles. They need to do hard struggle regularly for their rights as talked the pioneers above, such as, Rosemarie tong, Gayle Rubin, Friedrich Engels, Heidi Hartmann and Sheila Ruth etc. As long as women do not get economic independence from men this situation does not go high up.
To nutshell, Mother Courage and Her Children commodities the nature of war and takes an agent to Mother Courage for fulfilling the mundane needs in her ways. But she as a mere mediator because at last she is penniless, falls in the trap of patriarchal pit. The male guided path is always upper position which admits women, peasants, and common people in the battle field in the name of nationality as well as personal benefit. It is a mere one sided ideology that does not give a chance to improve women’s status. In the name of war the high class persons claim to be doing for female but it is the nature of their to exploit women. Amidst it Mother Courage is an example character who ultimately becomes tragic heroine. Her characteristics are sold in the name of inventory seller. As, such she seems a success woman to handle the context of thirty years war as an object, so is the claim of Marxist feminists.