Discuss Bertolt Brecht's poem "Crutches." 

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The poem “Crutches” strikes a chord of co-dependency. To have depended on something for seven years that was unnecessary seems such a waste of life. The man in the poem  by Bertolt Brecht employed crutches because he felt he needed them to walk.  Sometimes, it is the very thing a person relies on is  that which holds the person back.

In the poem, the lame man goes to the “great Physician” as a last resort to see if there is any hope to be rid of the crutches.  Symbolically, the asking for help speaks well of the man.  No one can getter better until he decides that he wants to do whatever is necessary to make the transformation from where a person is to where he wants to be. The man needs help, and he asks for it from someone who can see into his problem.

Life is full of crutches.  When someone is unhappy, hurt, or unable to cope, he will seek something to make him feel restored. Many times that something is only a temporary fix; but the fix may become easier and easier to use; then, it becomes the crutch that enables the person to make it through the day.  Drugs, alcohol, sex, pills,co-dependents—all of these things develop into a prop or crutch for the individual to use to struggle to fix his “lameness.”

In the poem, the man takes the first step toward the release from his enslavement by asking for help.  The physician uses “tough love.”  He takes away his crutches, breaks them, and tells the man to get up and walk by himself.  To the man, the doctor takes on a fiendish quality. 

And he took my lovely crutches
Laughing with a fiend¹s grimace

Broke them both across my back and
Threw them in the fireplace

On the figurative level, the rehabilitation from his reliance on his “crutches” will be painful.  His agony will be real. However, it is the first step toward walking on his own without needing the support of his addictions.

When the man looks back after finding his way to health, he has learned that laughter in  life is curative. Although when a person has come from a place of addiction, the compulsion can be revived.  It is always there under the surface.  He may see the crutches,  and it may affect his walking.

Well I’m cured now

Cured by nothing but laughter

Sometimes, though, when I see sticks

I walk worse for some hours after.

 On another level, he may see someone take a drink,  and  the person can almost taste it himself.  Yet, he knows the consequences and keeps on walking.

Through his poem, Brecht provides a lesson in recovery from dependence regardless from what that reliance may be.  There are steps that a person must follow to get to the other side of that compulsion.  The first is to ask for help.  The second is to listen and receive the support.  Then, it becomes a matter of living and dodging the problem throughout the individual’s life.

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