What is the summary of Mother Courage and Her Children?

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A committed Marxist and pacifist who despised the arrogance of Germany's interwar elite, Brecht wrote Mother Courage as an anti-war play. Though set during the devastating and ultimately futile Thirty Years War of the early 17th century, the play, written in 1939 and performed in 1941, was a commentary on World War II. 

In the play, Anna Fierling, Mother Courage, keeps an eye on the business as she carts her wagon around, profiting from war. War may be good for business, but it is bad for her children, none of whom she can protect from war's ravages. Her honest son Swiss Cheese is killed by the Catholics when he refuses to hand over the money that is in his keeping. The oldest son, Eilif, is brave, but his courage runs amok when, during a period of peace, he kills unarmed men. The daughter, Kattrin, has had her face disfigured and cannot speak, but she is a compassionate person who sacrifices herself to warn villagers of danger.

Brecht shows the human costs of ideologies (which Brecht would associate with capitalism) that put business/money and a false notion of heroism/bravery ahead of human life. Mother Courage herself is a complex character who transcends Brecht's initial desire to satirize her and becomes instead a tragic figure.

Rebecca Owens eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Enotes offers summaries of numerous works.  An excellent summary of the play Mother Courage and Her Children is located at the link below.

I'm also posting some other links on the play that might be helpful.

Read the study guide:
Mother Courage and Her Children

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