What are the themes in The Good Woman of Setzuan by Bertlot Brecht?

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e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A text of The Good Woman of Setzuan presents a number of themes for discussion. The primary theme of the play relates to ideas of goodness and can best be summarized as a question: Can goodness survive in the face of petty evils and economic necessity? 

For the most part, the characters in Brecht's play fall into two categories, good and bad. The bad people are not wholly bad or evil, but take advantage of others and act out of petty selfishness. We see this in Wong, Yang Sun, and nearly all the characters in the play outside of Shen Te. 

Shen Te is given the task of maintaining her goodness by the gods, but she is forced to deal with the petty evils of her relatives, her fiance and her landlady.  The conflict of the play is driven by the question of whether or not Shen Te's, the good woman, can survive with goodness or if she will lose herself to the practical necessity of acting out of self-interest. 

Lesser themes of the play include ideas of economic strain, money- driven despair, wealth & poverty, reform, and deception. 

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The Good Person of Szechwan

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