Mother Courage scene 5 Analysis
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Scene five is set in Magdeburg, Saxony in 1631. Mother Courage is serving two soldiers drinks. The Chaplain comes with wounded peasants and asks Mother Courage to give him cloth to cover the wounds. She refuses because she needs them for her own wealth. Kattrin runs into the ruins to save a baby, Mother Courage is more concerned with her belongings. Kattrin hums to the baby.
Fur coat: corruption has become very normal which is represented by the stolen woman’s fur coat. The soldier does not need one yet still bothered to take it for there are no laws or anything to stop him. The coat is yet again stolen by Mother Courage as payment for the brandy. She says “it’s stolen anyway” as if that makes it okay for her to take it, for he “technically” didn’t lose anything but gained the brandy and she gets the coat.
Plank: the plank symbolizes the lack of respect Kattrin has for her mother, for she resorts to threats of violence when she cannot express her frustration verbally. “Kattrin, making terrible noises, lifts a plank and threatens her mother with it.” This happened when Mother Courage refused to facilitate the wounded without being paid, when Kattrin seemed to be anxious to help. This shows us how Kattrin disapproves of her mother’s moral values and priorities.
The baby: The baby emphasizes that Kattrin has maternal instincts “Kattrin rocks the baby, singing a lullaby”. Her own mother seems to lack that herself and actually disapproves of Kattrin’s affectionate approach; she says “oh great, now you’ve found another baby to drag around with you”.
Quote: “As she rolls up the coat and throws it into the cart, Kattrin lifts the baby in the air. Both women have their share of the spoils.” Brecht here shows us how the two women differ in what they believe is valuable. He’s being sarcastic by saying that the fur coat to mother courage is equivalent to the baby, a human life, to Kattrin.
Set design: “the village has been shot to pieces” which is supposed to bring about grief and loss yet, “victory music can be heard” as if destruction brings them success and pleasure.
Quote: “Kattrin becomes very agitated and tries to het her mother to give her cloth”. Characteristics usually taught to children by parents would be being helpful and kind. In this case it’s Kattrin, the daughter, that’s desperately trying to help and greatly disapproves of her mother’s selfish behavior.
Quote: “I’ve duties, I’ve bribes” – Mother Courage. A family desperately in need of aid to survive lie in front of Mother Courage and she refuses to help because, as she claims, she cannot afford it. Why can’t she? Well, other than the normal expenses required by everyone, she also doesn’t want to help because she needs her fortune to bribe with. That’s a corrupted act which she freely admits, to no one’s shock or objection. It’s ironic how a mother of three children and with her history, who should understand how desperately they need her help, refuses. Her fortunes are needed for bribe.
“Kattrin, making terrible noises, lifts a plank and threatens her mother with it.”
This shows us how Kattrin lacks respect for her mum, foreshadowing future conflict between the two. Also, we see that in desperate needs, Kattrin resorts to expressing herself with objects
Kattrin’s Maternal Instincts vs. Mother Courage’s Commercial Instincts:
“Like mother like daughter”. One expects Kattrin to show similar characteristics to Mother Courage. So far from what we’ve seen of Mother Courage we can confidently say that she lacks the maternal instincts that we expected from her, especially since she’s referred to as “mother”. In this scene, Kattrin shows us that she is different as she desperately tries to help the family in need, even if it means going against her mother’s word. Also, she risks her to life to save the baby for a family she doesn’t know. When she returns, she lovingly holds the baby in her arms and hums to it.
Mother Courage on the other hand, gives no sympathy whatsoever as a family is about to collapse before her eyes if she does not give immediate help. Wounded parents and a baby stuck in a house now in ruins do not gain her sympathy. Even when her daughter rushes in the dangerous house to save the baby, she is “torn between the house and the shirts which the Chaplain is tearing vigorously apart.” Basically her choices were to check if her daughter can get out alive, or if too many of her belongings are being used to save the desperate family. Clearly her wellbeing is her concern rather than her daughter’s.
In this scene we see a lot of corruption.
First of all, one of the soldiers being served by Mother Courage was wearing a stolen woman’s fur coat. As soon as he saw that Mother Courage was distracted he attempted to steal brandy, and when caught, Mother Courage stole his fur coat as a payment for the drink.
Second of all, the way the soldiers receive their payments is also through corruption. When Mother Courage exclaims that soldiers aren’t even paid, the soldier who stole the fur coat says “It’s not my fault, I was late for the looting. They only let us loot for an hour.” This shows us that soldiers receive payment for their efforts by stealing from the townsfolk. He then continues saying “The general was going round saying, I’m not some inhuman monster. The town must have given him a bribe.” The general commends himself by saying I’m not a bad guy that’s why you only get an hour to rob these poor people. And above that, the soldier still doubts the general’s “good intentions” and says that he must’ve taken a bribe, something he says so casually that it is clearly a norm.
Yes it is. And not only with generals. Mother Courage herself freely states that she cannot help the peasant family who need her aid to survive because she needs the money for her own expenses, “Nothing doing. I can’t afford it. I’ve taxes, I’ve duties, I’ve bribes, I’ve interest to pay.” Bribery has become such a normal thing that it seems like they have forgotten it is a corrupt thing to do, to the extent that it has become one of the things she has to do, that she can’t afford helping the desperate family.
Major Character Analysis:
Business oriented and Materialistic:
From the very beginning of the scene Mother Courage shows us that she has barely any room for anything but earning money. The very first line of the scene is “It’s simple, I tell you. No money, no brandy.” She is not willing to set her foot down when it comes to her belongings and fortune. At the end of the scene, the soldier attempts to steal the brandy and Mother Courage steals his fur coat as a form of payment.
Also, the Chaplain desperately begs her for some cloth to help a family survive their wounds but she refuses to give any of her belongings claiming she cannot afford it “Nothing doing. I can’t afford it. I’ve taxes, I’ve duties, I’ve bribes, I’ve interest to pay.” When Kattrin desperately attempts to fight her mum and get the cloth, Mother Courage says “I’m not giving a penny. I don’t want to. I’ve got to look after myself.” This shows us just how selfish she is, she is unwilling to sacrifice something that does not determine life or death for her, but does for the wounded family before her. The life of a family should not have any price on it, however as we see, everything has a price when it comes to Mother Courage. Even her own daughter’s safety, “Mother Courage is now torn between the house [where Kattrin is] and the shirts which The Chaplain is tearing vigorously apart.”
“As she rolls up the coat and throws it into the cart, Kattrin lifts the baby in the air. Both women have their share of the spoils.” Brecht’s statement emphasizes on how Mother Courage is just as pleased with gaining fortune as Kattrin is with playing with a baby, a more selfless interest. Mother Courage is very materialistic.
Lacks motherly instincts:
Mother Courage to Kattrin “Oh great, now you’ve found another baby to drag around with you.” And as Kattrin rocks and hums to the baby, she refers to her “Look at her! Happy as a lark, in all this misery. (to Kattrin) You give it back.” She shows no sympathy or concern for the little innocent child which most mothers would make a great deal of effort to take care of, as Kattrin herself demonstrates. Mother Courage actually shows disapproval of Kattrin’s affection.
When Mother Courage first refuses to offer any help to the wounded family, “Kattrin becomes very agitated and tries to get her mother to give her cloth.” Still, Mother Courage refuses but Kattrin does not give up. “Kattrin, making terrible noises, lifts a plank and threatens her mother with it.” Kattrin is dumb and supposedly helpless in such a situation. However she proves us wrong as it is her who saved the day. She goes against her mother’s word to get help any way possible and actually risks her life to save one she doesn’t even know.
“Kattrin rocks the baby, singing a lullaby.”
“Kattrin lifts the baby in the air.”
In this scene Kattrin shows us that she differs from her mum, as she seems to have a lot of maternal instincts. She risks her life for a baby and manages to soothe it and play around with it and as Mother Courage says she is “happy as a lark, in all this misery.”
First Soldier (Fur Coat):
Based on corruption:
This soldier shows us nothing but bad traits. He is wearing a stolen woman’s fur coat. He then tries to convince Mother Courage to give him a drink for free. When she refuses, he uses the commotion around him to sneak out the brandy “Fur Coat is rifling the drinks, and is now trying to make off with the bottle.”
Helpful and Understanding:
When the Chaplain explains the situation he’s in, “the Second Soldier goes off with him” which shows us that this soldier is always ready to get up and offer his support in any situation, even when it’s with or for people he doesn’t know. He also understood Mother Courage’s frustration in the middle of the hectic events and did not retort when she accused him of not doing anything about the victory music, something he was helpless about “Don’t stand there. Tell them to stop that bloody music”