The Good Person of Szechwan

by Bertolt Brecht

Start Free Trial

Student Question

In The Good Person of Szechwan, what is the gods' relationship with other characters?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This question is answered most effectively by analysing the relationship that Shen Te has with the gods, and in particular what happens in Scen 9a when they appear to Wong. Having continued their search for goodness in teh world, they have returned to Wong and reported that they have found precious little evidence of any goodness. They believe that Shen Te is the only person who has "remained good," and it is this hope that sustains them, even though the Third God believes that the lack of goodness in humanity is the result of the harshness that humans face in the world. This god shows a much more understanding nature than the the First God, who, in response to this view, blames mankind for their lack of goodness, calling them "worthless." When the gods finally see Shui Ta again, and discover how she was only able to be good through creating Shui Ta, Shen Te tells them:

Your original order

To be good while yet surviving

Split me like lightning into two people. I

Cannot tell what occurred: goodness to others

And to myself could not both be achieved.

In response to these words, the First God adopts complete denial, refusing to acknowledge the truth of what Shen Te says. He continues to believe that Shen Te has remained good, and therefore the world should not be altered: "Everything is as it should be." The moral code that the gods choose to use in order to measure goodness remains the same, in spite of Shen Te showing beyond a doubt that it is impossible to be good in this world and look after yourself. Shen Te is left still facing massive difficulties as she desires to be good in a world where doing good is a weakness. They leave Shen Te with the words, "Only be good, and all will be well!", even though Shen Te has shown them the falseness of this approach. It is clear therefore that the gods, although they are people to be respected and they are treated with great deference by the characters in this play, are also slightly out of touch with reality. The first god in particular is so fixated on finding and believing that one good person exists that he will not accept any evidence that suggests this is not the case. He places more value in his moral code that judges whether a human is good or not than the humans in the world themselves, and the very real struggles and difficulties that they face.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial