In Mother Courage and Her Children, is Mother Courage really courageous?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is an excellent question to consider. Mother Courage, as she tells the audience in Scene 1, was given her name after an event in Riga when she showed tremendous courage. Note how she describes this action:

Courage is the name they gave me because I was scared of going broke, sergeant, so I drove me cart right through the bombardment of Riga with fifty loaves of bread abroad. They were going mouldy, it was high time, hadn't any choice really.

This points towards the tremendous courage that Mother Courage is capable of showing. However, note how the final sentence indicates that what defines her character is the need to make a profit. She is somebody who puts her business in front of everything else, and her courage stems from her mercantile avarice. The quote also indicates how she puts both her own life and the lives of others (most notably those of her children) second to making a profit. Her phrase that she "hadn't any choice really" but to drive through the bombardment at Riga because the loaves were going mouldy clearly indicates that she will do anything than risk a loss, and later actions, such as her haggling over her son's life, support this. Whilst she is courageous therefore, it is important to note that this is only when she has to be courageous in order to look after her own interests and make a profit. Mother Courage could therefore be considered something of a misnomer, as really what others ascribe to her as courage is something that could be considered to be nothing more than greed.

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Mother Courage and Her Children

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