Both plays serve as examples of Bertolt Brecht's "epic theatre". They are structured more like epic poems than the traditional tragedies that follow Aristotle's rules. In both plays, the audience is in a way forced to consider not only the plot, but the purpose of the play as it is being performed. They are designed to stimulate intellectual concentration of their themes as those themes are presented. This technique is furthered through Brecht's use of "alienation effects". The audience’s emotional involvement with the play and its characters is limited, in order to focus on the meaning of the action and its inherent social criticism.
Brecht also uses irony extensively in his plays. For example, Mother Courage takes an ironic look at war and its effects. Wrapped up in the struggle for survival, it is this very struggle which leads to the deaths of her children. So, while the entire play is centered around her attempt to keep her family alive, it actually leads to their demise.