The Good Person of Szechwan

by Bertolt Brecht

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What happens to Shen Te when she is kind to others in The Good Person of Szechwan?

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Shen Te, in The Good Woman of Setzuan (akaThe Good Person of Szechwan), provides us with a classic example of the old adage, "you give them an inch and they take a yard." Though Shen Te wants to follow the Book of Rules the gods pass on to her, she finds that goodness does not necessarily lead to reward. 

"...most of the people whom she is trying to help take advantage of her generosity."

  • When Shen Te offers to allow a few relatives to stay in her shop, those relatives in turn invite others into the shop until there is no more space. 
  • When Shen Te saves a young man from suicide, he finds a way to take 200 silver dollars from her which he never returns or pays back. 
  • When Shen Te agrees to marry this same young man and gives him money to get a job, the young man plans to leave her behind when he leaves town. 

All of Shen Te's generosity of spirit and generous behavior lead to abuse as people take advantage of her willingness to give. 

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