Disclaimer: This is an example of a student written essay.
Click here for sample essays written by our professional writers.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UKEssays.com.

Mother Courage And Her Children English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1625 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

Reference this

Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and her Children are set in societies or contexts that confuse and complicate the lives of most people. The protagonists of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and her Children struggle against the constraints of their respective environments and both embrace fierce independence at the end of the respective plays. However, Nora achieves this as a result of personal choice while Mother Courage’s independence and loneliness is enforced upon her as a consequence of the circumstances which surround her. In this essay I will explore the reasons for the ultimate loneliness which the protagonists embrace.

Get Help With Your Essay

If you need assistance with writing your essay, our professional essay writing service is here to help!

Essay Writing Service

Mother Courage and her Children shows a society crumbling due to the poignant crisis between Catholics and Protestants, while A Doll’s House is set in a society which displays the principles of a Victorian society in which tradition and stereotypes define gender roles to a crippling degree. These societies place unnecessary pressure on all families, leaving only those who can bear to survive. The pressure exerted by the constraints of Victorian society is too much for Nora to handle and she ultimately walks out on her family. On the other hand for Mother Courage to master motherhood as well as survival skills during the Thirty Years War is nearly an impossible feat. Brecht cleverly illustrates how the war moulds Courage into a deep unsympathetic character who by the end of the play loses everything but learns nothing. [1] 

Mother Courage and her Children is set in the year 1624, in the midst of a collapsed society. Mother Courage has three children named Eilif Nojocki (the son of a light-fingered soldier), Swiss Cheese (a Swiss fortifications engineer’s son) and Kattrin Haupt (half-German). Courage lives off war by selling dead soldiers’ possessions like boots, helmets, etc. Courage’s losses being in the opening scene of the play where a sergeant distracts Courage by haggling over a belt buckle while a recruiting officer leads Eilif off into the war fields. The conflict between motherhood and business is immediately brought into focus by the belt. For the first time we can see her dilemma between her interests as a businesswoman and her interests as a mother.

After Eilif is succumbed to war, Swiss Cheese appears in the attire of a paymaster with a regimental cashbox. While Courage is off scene, Cheese is dragged away by a spy. Later in the scene Courage bargains for Cheese’s life with hesitation of bribing the soldiers and during this shilly-shallying Cheese is executed. Courage here fails to realize that she will never be able to save Cheese as well as keep her cart. Here is an opportunity cost situation and another step towards her loneliness due to the circumstances of the war. Brecht tries to bring home the hollowness in Courage’s maternal skills but he also shows that the circumstances leave Courage without a preference. [2] 

As the play approaches the climax and Courage has lost both her sons, we can observe that Courage’s loss of Kattrin also comes without a choice. Kattrin despite being warned begins to beat a drum on a peasant’s roof top to warn the townsfolk about the soldier invasion. (Scene 11, Page 106)6. Kattrin is threatened by the peasant as well as the soldiers and is gradually shot to death but her sacrifice saves the lives of several townsfolk. Kattrin’s death represents the emotional climax of the play; it is the death of Courage’s final child. Throughout the play we notice that Courage lives off war but by the end of the play she has to pay of the debts of the war with her own blood. [3] Studying the loss of her children it is evident that Courage could not master the art of motherhood and she believed that money was the only way to raise her children. She strived to achieve this goal which can be seen by her continuing her business in the last scene even after losing all her children. It is also interesting to note that her loneliness was due to the circumstances of the war which always put her in an opportunity cost situation which lead to the loss of her children. Despite the fact that war expects sacrifices, Courage does show some part of coldness on her part as she refuses to give Kattrin a proper burial herself instead she says, “I must get back into business”(Scene 12, Page 111)6. The aloneness of Courage is the result of the insatiable hunger of the war leaving Courage in situations where the cost of survival was the death of her children and a step towards solitude.

If external circumstances deprive Mother Courage of her children and leave her in heroic isolation, Nora of Doll’s House abandons her children of her own free will in her own quest to combat the circumstances that confine her. A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen opens on a Christmas Eve and from the very first lines of the play, we notice the status quo as stereotypically dictated by a Victorian Society between a husband and a wife – Torvald Helmer and Nora. Helmer is the typecast strong and dignified husband while Nora is “little skylark twittering,”(line 148) 5 these choice of Helmer’s words depict how Helmer treated her like a child. Helmer’s continual reference to Nora using silly names for example “little featherbrain”(line 83) 5, his “squirrel sulking”(line 48)5 and most importantly his “song bird”(line 7)5 portray the status disparity between men and women and show that women are simply status symbols according to the Victorian society principles. [4] The first stage of Nora’s independence and loneliness begins in the opening scene of the play where Nora instead of sharing her love for the macaroons, hides it from Helmer (line 13) 5 and in turn Helmer as a dominant husband questions and suspects Nora (lines 106-124) 5.

Find Out How UKEssays.com Can Help You!

Our academic experts are ready and waiting to assist with any writing project you may have. From simple essay plans, through to full dissertations, you can guarantee we have a service perfectly matched to your needs.

View our services

The second step towards independence is signified in opening conversation between Linde and Nora where Nora shows her strength in the mere fact that she had forged her father’s signature and saved her husband’s life. Although this took place before the play started, in revealing her secret to Mrs. Linde she attempts to gain independence but her efforts towards seeking independence are defeated by the principles of the Victorian society where it is below a man’s dignity to seek aid from his wife. Nora instructs Mrs.Linde “Sh! Torvald must never hear…” (lines 342-345)5 as she identifies that Helmer would not appreciate her efforts. Her next leap towards breaking-free is shown when Krogstad comes to visit her and tries to manipulate her but Nora in response quotes, “A daughter can’t save her dying father from care and worry? A wife can’t help her sick husband?” (lines 810-813) [5] .

It is not until Nora sees the truth of Helmer’s character that she finally breaks free. Nora’s long expected “miracle” never took place as Helmer demonstrates a very selfish side of his personality when he discovers that Nora had saved his life. Helmer stoically says, “No man would sacrifice his honor for the one he loves” (line 636-637).This is the culmination point of the play where Nora realizes that just how the Victorian society demands it to be – Helmer’s social image is of a greater importance to him as compared to his love and commitment to his wife. This disappointment bolsters Nora to give up her children and walk out on her husband to pursue a life of her choice where she is alone yet independent. Nora walks out on her family and her motherhood responsibilities to discover herself. Unlike Mother Courage, Ibsen shows a much more difficult scenario for Nora as she is fond of her children and she has a choice but due to the reactions of Helmer as a stereotype Victorian society husband she has to abandon her children, which is emotionally tragic for her. [6] Nora primarily leaves to find her own independence but she also believes that her children’s upbringing would be better done by Anne-Marie (their nanny).

The culminations of the two plays symbolize the loneliness of the protagonists, their ultimate fate is similar but their attitude towards accomplishing their destiny is different. Nora’s independence and seclusion is the result of the choice she makes while Mother Courage is devoid of a choice. Nora, tired of the male dominant society decides to break free and voluntarily chooses to be independent for her personal growth. While Mother Courage also makes similar sacrifices but the warfare society depicted by Brecht leaves her handicapped. To conclude Nora had the desire of being independent but for Mother Courage loneliness and independence were like a price that she unwilling has to pay for the business she did off the war.


Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Related Services

View all

DMCA / Removal Request

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have your work published on UKEssays.com then please: