Anna Fierling, called Mother Courage, a camp follower about forty years old who sells supplies from a canteen wagon to both sides in the Thirty Years’ War. She got the nickname after her mad drive through the bombardment of Riga, made in an attempt to sell her bread before it became too moldy. Mother Courage is an inveterate haggler and trader who profits from the war and dreads the coming of peace. Although she retains several endearing qualities, she is nevertheless the focus of the author’s criticism of war and those who would profit from it. Even as she loses each of her three children (fathered by three different men) to the war, Mother Courage is unable to extract herself from it. Her harsh view of life is summarized in “The Song of the Great Capitulation,” which states that the individual must abandon romantic dreams and swallow what life imposes on him or her, and “The Song of the Great Souls of this Earth,” which maintains that one’s greatest virtues are at once the cause of one’s downfall. The latter song (though sung by another character) reflects the destiny of Mother Courage’s children, whose demise is brought about by the prominent character traits—bravery, honesty, and compassion—featured in the song. Mother Courage believes that the presence of virtues is “a sure sign something’s wrong” but never comprehends the lesson of war and plies her trade until the end.
Eilif Noyocki, Mother Courage’s elder son, known for his intelligence and bravery. Over his mother’s...
(The entire section is 647 words.)