War is death, pain, suffering, loss, politics, victory, defeat, hope, and despair. War can also be a land of opportunity. Mother Courage and her Children, a play by Bertolt Brecht, is a play based on the tribulations of the Thirty Year’s War which takes place in the year 1624. Mother Courage, the protagonist, is faced with the hardship of how to support her family throughout what would be tough times. In Mother Courage and her Children, war is necessary to make a profit; however, it is not acceptable because in order to do that the humane treatment of people, as well as family, is sacrificed along the way.
War is necessary because it provides markets that were not present beforehand, provides a solution for conflicts, and helps keep territories organized. Profiteering off of war is like a double-edged sword. There are two ways in order to make a profit; a moral and immoral way. Mother Courage has an unacceptable career because she takes advantage of the sorrows of another, as well as changing her views and morals in order to make any sale. Moreover, she also places her children in danger by traveling to the root of evil.
In my opinion, there are certain characteristics that distinguish the differences between immoral and moral conduct, and in Mother Courage and Her Children Mother Courage violates all of that moral conduct. A recruiting officer once claims, “There’s no loyalty left in the world, no trust, no faith, no sense of honor” (Brecht 23). Mother Courage is the epitome of this quotation. She is selfish by nature, and her profiteering wrecks her family as well as anyone else who stands in her way. Throughout the entire play there is always some battle occurring.
War provides organization because before the war everything was in disarray: You know what the trouble with peace is? No organization…It takes a war to fix that. In a war, everyone registers, everyone’s name’s on a list. Their shoes are stacked, their corn’s in the bag, you count it all up – cattle, men, et cetera- and you take it away! That’s the story: no organization, no war! (Brecht 23) The Sergeant believes that war is necessary because the war provides him with organization as well as total control over any situation.
Before a war there was no records, no surveys handed out because everybody did their own thing. Peace was a time of disorganization, “anything goes, no one gives a damn” (Brecht 23). This is because the Sergeant believes that organization goes hand in hand with control. Control and organization are related to one another because in order for something be organized there needs to be a central power to enforce it. This central power that needs to enforce the organization has to be in control in order for a situation to take off.
This is relevant in war because It also gives people a place in the world as well as goals to accomplish. There are a myriad of goals that can be accomplished, whether it is climbing the ranks as an officer or being a nurse and helping wounded soldiers. There is always a new goal to strive for or in this case, “there are always new heroes” (Brecht 75). This in turn, provided the poor with the courage that this could be a time of prosperity because “war satisfies all needs” (Brecht 76). One of the needs that the Chaplain discusses about is the need for income.
Furthermore, the war is a necessity because it is a dispute over religion, not just power. As the Chaplain puts it, “… but to fall in this war is not a misfortune, it’s a blessing. This is a war of religion. Not just any old war but a special one, a religious one, and there fore pleasing unto God” (Brecht 46). The Thirty Year’s War was indeed a war of religion. The war was primarily based on the profound religious antagonism provoked by the Germans because of the events of the Protestant Reformation.
Religious animosity, especially among non-German supporters of the contending Protestant and Roman Catholic factions helped broaden the war (Thirty Year’s War 1). Therefore, the Chaplain was not out of context claiming that dying for this war was a blessing. This was a common belief during the time period of 1618 and 1648, which is when the war existed. The want and need for profit during the war becomes a central issue throughout the play. This is because war and business is a central motif throughout the play because it provides a market for Mother Courage.
Courage would buy supplies and sell them at a higher price to whichever side wanted to buy it. Courage changes her views and morals in order to make a profit any way she can. For example, when the Catholics progresses towards the territory in which Mother Courage is located, she instantly takes down her flag she had for twenty-five years. Also Courage hastily changes religions: I told I was against the Antichrist, who is a Swede with horns on his head… When they cross-examined me, I always asked where I could buy holy candles a bit cheaper.
I know these things because Swiss Cheese’s father was a Catholic and made jokes about it. They didn’t quite believe me but they needed a canteen, so they turned a blind eye. (Brecht 52) In this situation Mother Courage goes against her beliefs and in turn makes a profit because she sells a canteen to the opposite religion in which she was supporting. This is an example of an immoral way to make a profit in a war. In my opinion, this is an immoral because she is using people in order to benefit. In a way Courage is like a parasite, she is only there to benefit for herself and while doing that she hurts her hosts.
The hosts in this case would be the two sides of the Thirty Year War. These are examples of how conniving she is because she would do anything just to benefit herself. Another example is when Mother Courage exchanges guilders for army bullets. The officer needs the money to buy liquor, and convinces her by claiming that, “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours… You can resell ‘em for five guilders, maybe eight, to the Ordnance Officer of the Fourth Regiment. All you have to do is give him a receipt for twelve. He hasn’t a bullet left” (Brecht 42).