The presentation and significance of the maternal instinct in So long a letter (Mariama Bâ) and Mother Courage and her Children (Bertolt Brecht).

Essay by 2crazy4youCollege, Undergraduate March 2004

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Frequent references to maternal instinct can be found in So long a letter and Mother Courage and her Children. Certain aspects of a character reveal themselves in the behaviour and actions taken due to the maternal instinct. In addition to giving insight into character, both Bâ and Brecht use the maternal instinct to signify specific developments in the plot. Therefore, by analysing the presentation of the maternal instinct, insights into many of the ideas that the writers are trying to communicate can be gained. This paper will compare the ways in which the maternal instinct is used for the above purposes in the short novel and the play.

When writing Mother Courage and her Children Brecht's main intention was to highlight the iniquities of fascistic and capitalist ideals. To accomplish his aims the audience had to be alienated from the play and made aware of it as a play and nothing more in order to be able to comprehend Brecht's ideas more effortlessly.

By using characteristics of epic theatre he avoided realistic appearances and created unpredictable characters, like Mother Courage for example. Her maternal instinct alters depending on the economic circumstances of herself. In scene 1 her maternal instinct appears to be intense, trying to prevent her son Eilif from being recruited into the army and the stage directions signify her earnestness:

She pulls a knife: Go on, you kidnap him, just try. I'll slit you open, trash.1

Whereas in scene 3 her sense for maternity has rapidly declined or even became immoral:

Don't push me, I know what I am doing. Say a hundred and twenty, or it's off.2

The value of her own son is measured in amount of money. This is an entirely capitalist approach, which will be disliked by the shaken audience. As each scene...