Mother Courage scenes 5-12

•May 8, 2011 • 3 Comments

In scene six of Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage, Mother Courage, the Chaplain, and the Clerk discuss the possibilities of the war coming to an end. The Chaplain is pessimistic about the war and believes that the war will never come to an end. It may “pause occasionally,” but it will always come back. He goes on to compare it to love by saying, “War is like love, it always finds a way.” By comparing war to love, I feel like it’s trying to say that war is as inevitable as love is. We can try to avoid it, but one day it will come and claim victims.
In class we learned that this play uses the Thirty Years War as an allusion to the current war at the time, World War II. During this war, like many other wars, the common people suffered a lot. Innocent people were terrorized and killed. An interesting speech that Mother Courage gives in scene six attributes courage to the poor.

“The poor needs courage. Why? They’re lost. That they even get up in the morning is something – in their plight. Or that they plough a field – in war time. Even their bringing children into the world shows that they have courage, for they have no prospects. They have to hang to each other one by one and slaughter each other in the lump, so if they want to look each other in the face once in a while, well, it takes courage. That they put up with an Emperor and a Pope, that takes an unnatural amount of courage, for they cost you your life.”

After reading the passage, I could not help but think that Mother Courage is a representation of the suffering people who have lost everything to the war. But still these people continue to push onward with hope that peace will come. They are the definition of courage, fearless.
Eilif re-emerges into the story during scene eight, but he comes back as a prisoner sentenced to death, for a deed that he commonly performed during the war. Eilif had broken into a home and killed a woman. This happened during the short peace time, so it was a crime. This shows how war becomes tricky. Morals become mixed up and rules change constantly. People become confused with what is right and wrong. It also shows how war contradicts all the laws set in place. Maybe I missed it, but Eilif’s death was never described. Swiss Cheese is said to be shot many times, but Eilif was taken away and that is all we hear about him. Right after he was taken away, we find out that the war has started again. I think that there is a chance that Eilif was let free because he was favored by the commanders.
The death of Kattrin is very confusing. Throughout the play, Mother Courage brings up the fact that Kattrin wants to be married. It can also be deduced that she is passionate towards kids especially when she runs into a house that is near collapse to save a child. In scene eleven, Kattrin is left with a peasant family when Catholic troops threaten the family. The old peasant man and woman pray for their son in law and the four children he has. They begin to pray for each child and this sets Kattrin off. She climbs to the roof with a drum and beats it as loudly as she can. I think she is trying to signal the Protestant troops for help, but I am not sure about this. Or she could be trying to bring attention to what the troops are doing to the innocent peasants. To bring attention to the injustice done to the children, whom are clearly innocent. Because Kattrin is dumb, I was never able to completely decipher what she was thinking. This makes it harder for us to know why she did what she did. Kattrin is practically silent throughout the entire play and does not bring attention to herself. But for the sake of children she became loud and a target.

Mother Courage (5-12) &”The Age of Total War”

•May 8, 2011 • 4 Comments

After having passed two years in Scene 5, both Mother Courage and her daughter Kattrin find themselves in a village in Madgeburg serving two soldiers at the counter. At this point, she is arguing with the soldiers who won’t pay up while suddenly the Chaplain rushes in asking that he needs linen for a family of peasants. Knowing how Mother Courage is about her own possessions, she refuses to give any away to help others even though it is for a good cause. When one is in the middle of a war and is greatly affected by what is happening, sharing and putting others before you is least likely to come to mind. Although Mother Courage refuses to sacrifice her officer’s shirts for bandages, Kattrin threatens her with a board to give up the shirts in which the Chaplain begins to tear into strips. As soon as the cries of a child in pain are heard, Kattrin doesn’t hesitate in going into the collapsing building to save the child. She may not be able speak at all since she is “dumb”, but even then, she still feels and wants what any woman would, such as the desire to be a mother. When Mother Courage finds Kattrin “rocking child and half humming a lullaby”, she immediately demands her to return the baby to its mother after saying that the child is basically just another mouth to feed and care for (Brecht 72). Before the soldiers could get away, Mother Courage takes one of the soldier’s fur coat as a payment for her services.
Now that it is 1632 in Scene 6, Mother Courage stocks up with more items while talking about and expressing her pity towards Commander Tilly’s death during his funeral at the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt. After giving her little speech on her thoughts about the Commander, Mother Courage asks the Chaplain if the war will ever come to an end anytime soon to help her decide on whether or not to buy more supplies. She finally decides to buy more supplies after having heard that peace won’t be coming around soon because all needs tend to be satisfied during war according to the Chaplain. As Mother Courage takes out the pipe to smoke, Chaplain begins to comment on the pipe and its owner, the Cook when Kattrin suddenly enters with a wounded eye after being attacked in town with the Clerk making Mother Courage only curse the war more. Had it not been for the war, her daughter might not have ever been attacked in the first place.
Scene 7 is Mother Courage’s height of prosperity who is now dragging her wagon along a highway with a necklace made of silver coins singing her song.

Suddenly, in Scene 8, peace has just been declared. Mother Courage is now caught in the middle of the argument between the Chaplain and the Cook for giving her the advice to buy more supplies. After realizing that she now needs to sell as much as she can, Yvette appears with a servant unmasks the Cook as Peter Piper that had only hurt her. While Mother Courage heads off to town with Yvette in order to sell her supplies and calm her down, Eilif shows up with two soldiers to give his mother one last goodbye before he is taken away towards his death for having committed an act of plundering under the new peace. The Cook decides to keep this visit away from Mother Courage and upon her return from town, discovers that the war has been resumed for the past three days and leave immediately.
By 1634, in Scene 9, the war has now taken half of Germany’s population leaving only starving people behind. While in Fichtelgebirge, the Cook abruptly tells Mother Courage that he has received a letter from Utrecht announcing that his mother has died leaving him the family inn. He takes this opportunity to finally get away with Mother Courage without her daughter. He explains to her that Kattrin is only ugly and can’t come along because she would only scare customers away, practically giving Mother Courage a reality slap. Like any mother, she refuses to leave her daughter behind for a man who guarantees nothing and who believes that a man is better off with virtues such as wisdom, bravery, honesty, and pity.
A year later, in Scene 10, both Mother Courage and her daughter come across a farmhouse on the highway where they stopped momentarily to hear someone singing.

One night in 1636, Scene 11, three soldiers and a Catholic Lieutenant show up at the farmhouse demanding a guide to town in order to kill everyone there and kill anyone who gets in their way. After having threatened the Peasant’s son, he finally decides to lead them into town in order to save the Old Peasant and Woman along with their cattle. Throughout this whole time, Kattrin has been in the wagon waiting for her mother’s return from town. Once the Peasant Woman begins to pray for family members of theirs in town with young children, Kattrin suddenly decides to take action and find a way to give the town a warning in order to save the people and children. At this point, the only thing on her mind is saving those children that were mentioned regardless of whether she stays alive or not. She quickly grabs a drum under her apron and begins to beat it as loud as she can, not listening to a word that comes from the peasants or the Lieutenant who returns to kill her if she does not stop the drumming. The town finally hears her right before she is shot.
Now that it is morning in

 Scene 12, Mother Courage finds herself holding onto her daughter’s body in disbelief until the peasants offer to bury her and advise her to continue on with her journey, towards Eilif. Kattrin is not “dumb” as her mother made her seem in the beginning, for the fact that she just saved a whole town with her drumming in exchange for her own life. Even though Mother Courage believed that by her not speaking would save her from getting involved in the war, it did not stop her from acting against it. In the end, it is Kattrin who truly depicts a courageous and good mother rather than her own mother who only focuses on attaining supplies and selling them. Instead, Mother Courage finds herself continuing on in her business of war.
In the “Age of Total War” from Eric Hobsbawm’s Age of Extremes, the main focus is on World War I and how it ended up having such a great impact on the rest of world. The chapter begins with an explanation of who and who was involved in the war. It then talks about the technology used during the war, such as poisonous gas brought by the Germans, since they are strong in Chemistry (Hobsbawm 28). Once explaining what worked and what didn’t, one begins to see the many things that were put on the line regardless of who got hurt or died in order to just attain power.

Mother Courage and Her Children (1-4)

•May 4, 2011 • 8 Comments

Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage begins the first scene of the play with a recruiting officer and a sergeant discussing about the difficulty of recruiting soldiers. They state that the people in the town need a war because a war creates organization and “peace is one big waste of equipment” (23). Next, Mother Courage and Kattrin appear on a canteen wagon that is pulled by Eilif and Swiss Cheese. Mother Courage talks with the recruiting officer and the sergeant in order to try to get them to buy something from her. When asked about her name, Mother Courage explains that people called her “Mother Courage” because she was afraid that she was going to be ruined. I thought that this was contradictory because “Mother Courage “sounds like a name that would be given to a woman who has done a courageous or brave act. However, Mother Courage gained her title through her fear and cowardliness. When Mother Courage talks about her family lineage, the names of her children, and her children’s fathers, she inserts random facts about her children and their names, and this contributes to the humor of the play. The play is settled during The Thirty Year War, and during this time, the environment was tense and dark. The use of humor lightens up the mood of the war and the situations that appear in the play. The last sentence of Scene 1 is “When a war gives you all you earn One day it may claim something in return!” This line foreshadows what will happen in the rest of the play. Mother Courage benefits from the war by selling military goods to soldiers and the people. Mother Courage is also capable of seeing the future and she predicts that all three of her children will die.  In regards to the quote, because Mother Courage lives off the war, she would have to pay back the war in some way. In this scene, she loses Eilif because he enlists in the war.

In the second scene of the play, Mother Courage tries to get the Cook to buy her capon, while Eilif, the Commander, and Chaplain discuss about Eilif’s recent attack on the local peasants. The Commander repeatedly shouts and demands for “meat” during the discussion, which forces the Cook to buy the capon from Mother Courage. When discussing about his recent experiences with the peasants, Eilif says that he made his men “crazy for meat” by cutting down their ration of meat. Then when he killed the peasants for hiding his oxen, he cut them up into pieces, and fed them to his men. The brutality of war is illustrated in these two scenes. War makes people hungry and starving for food and freedom. When people are deprived of food and freedom, they will demand these necessities and do whatever they can to get them. Also, within this scene Mother Courage says that “Whenever there are great virtues, it’s a sure sign something’s wrong” (39). I thought that Mother Courage’s idea of great virtues is interesting because I never thought of great virtues as a product of something negative.

In scene three, Mother Courage loses her other son, Swiss Cheese to the war. Swiss Cheese is a paymaster and he had the sergeant’s cash box with him when the Catholic war began. An enemy sergeant and a One-Eyed Man traced down Swiss Cheese and demanded to know where the cash box was. Swiss Cheese did not tell them, so they took him away. The One-Eyed Man wanted 200 guilders for Swiss Cheese’s life, but Mother Courage did not have that money. She considers pawning off her wagon to Yvette for the money, but she did not want to lose her wagon, so she bargains with the One-Eyed Man for Swiss Cheese’s life. In the end, Swiss Cheese dies. When the enemy sergeant and the One-Eyed Man shows Mother Courage Swiss Cheese’s body, Mother Courage refuses to identify him. In this scene, Mother Courage chooses her business over her son. She views the wagon as more important than her son, because the wagon allows her to conduct her business, survive in the world, and support her family.

In the fourth scene, Mother Courage is outside an Officer’s tent and she complains to a Clerk about the army destroying her goods in the wagon and charging her a fine. Then two soldiers, a Young Soldier and an Older Soldier, enter the tent. The Young Soldier complains that the captain stole his money and used it for his own pleasures, while the Older Soldier tries to calm him down. Both Mother Courage and the Young Soldier have issues with the captain that they want to address, but they both leave the tent before addressing the issues with the captain directly. These two individuals give up on addressing their issues with the captain directly because of the limit of their anger. Mother Courage says to the Young Soldier “if your anger is a short one, you’d better go” (69). In other words, this quote means that if you do not feel strongly enough about what you are arguing/complaining about, you should leave because you would not be able to successfully defend your point.

Strong Men

•May 1, 2011 • 8 Comments

The poem “Strong Men” is written by Sterling Brown and appears to speak of a certain group of people throughout the poem.  It does not directly state who “they” are but instead the poem expresses the actions of what “they” have done.  Just from reading the descriptions of “they” we can assume that they are the white people back then who had slaves to do all the dirty work.  The speaker who is “us” is the slaves that were put through all the trouble.

In the beginning of the poem there is a two line quote that is used as a reference to the main point of the poem.  Throughout this poem this quote and a quote that’s very similar to it will be repeatedly used to describe how all this torment really only makes “us” stronger and how all the work was done by “us” really shows who the stronger man is.

“The young men keep coming on”

“The strong men keep coming on”

This poem uses a lot of repetition of the words “they” and “you”.  In lines one through four “they” is constantly used to really emphasize the people and who they are.  Reading just these ten lines the reader can understand that “they” are cruel people and have done a lot of misdemeanors against the “us”. “They” start out by kidnapping chaining and selling each one of “us”.

Lines 1-4

They dragged you from homeland

They chained you in coffles,

They huddled you spoon-fashion in filthy hatches,

They sold you to give a few gentlemen ease.

Once in America other horrible acts are listed in the second stanza.  In line ten it states that the white men are hypocritical and they do not even follow the religion like they really should.

Starting at line eleven the poem describes what “they” would say.  The accent is really emphasized to show that it was the way white men back then spoke.  It also explains how boastful they are even when they were not the ones out in the fields doing the hard work.

Lines 26-30

You sang:

Ain’t no hammah

In dis lan’,

Strikes lak mine

Strikes lak mine.

The meaning of this poem is that what all the white men are doing to the people is actually making them stronger.  “They” become weaker because they do not do much and all are very hypocritical.  All the degradation of “us” will not break them down.  There are certain things “they” cannot take away  from the slaves and that is their spirit of becoming stronger men represented in lines sixty-two through sixty-six.

Lines 62-66

One thing they cannot prohibit-

The strong men…coming on

The strong men gittin’ stronger

Strong men…..


Just from all the evidence the poem has given, people can assume that this is the struggle between the black and white societies.  Even though this was written in 1930 there was still a lot of discrimination against blacks during this time period.  The poem puts the history of the discrimination starting from slavery to the prohibition of certain rights.

If We Must Die

•April 26, 2011 • 14 Comments

“If We Must Die” by Claude McKay appears to be Shakespearian sonnet. It has fourteen lines in iambic pentameter with the same “ababcdcdefef gg” alternating rhyme scheme ending with a couplet. There are a total six stanzas varying from a single line to four.

The title, “If We Must Die” is exactly what the poem is about. The main idea is that there’s some kind of situation going on between two groups, the oppressors and the oppressed (which the speaker seems to be part of). The speaker calls for the oppressed to live life to its fullest despite any hardships they may face, because life is worth living; they must fight and if necessary, die fighting against those that might try to deny them of it. As long as they their deaths weren’t meaningless, but noble, even their enemies would remember them.

Lines 1 – 4 describe the situation that the speaker and his fellows are experiencing.

If we must die, let it not be like hogs

Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,

While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,

Making their mock at our accursed lot.

The poem starts off by immediately emphasizing the importance achieving better conditions. The oppressed are compared to hogs, prey animals that have no real control over their fate. They are attacked and put into terrible conditions while their enemies continue to belittle them.

The focus in lines 5 – 8 shifts to how their situation should change to.

If we must die, O let us nobly die

So that our precious blood may not be shed

In vain; then even the monsters we defy

Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!

In the rest of the poem, the speaker rallies his kinsmen to fight back, even if death awaits them. Dying nobly is more important than living a few more moments.  If you cannot face death on your feet, with fire in your eyes and veins, then your life isn’t worth much.  We must all die eventually, so why not fight?  In a fight something may be accomplished, your life, and death, would be for nothing.  If your death can make you a martyr, then you have achieved something.  If your death makes even a single person pause, and examine their lives, then your death is of greater worth than a few more moments scrabbling at the taters of life like a hunted dog.

O kinsmen! We must meet the common foe!

Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,

And for their thousand blows deal one death blow!

What though before us lies the open grave?

Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,

Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

Considering that it was written in the summer of 1919, the poem is a direct response to the race riots that occurred in three dozen American cities. Known as “The Red Summer of 1919,” large numbers of blacks were massacred and those that fought against their attackers.  In this light, this poem takes on a completely new form.  It is an ode to life, and to death.  Clearly the word choice in this poem evokes the concept of the importance of life, and of the final moments of death.

The Fish

•April 25, 2011 • 3 Comments

Marianne Moore’s “The Fish” is a rhymed syllabic poem broken into 8 different stanzas.  The stanzas follow a similar syllabic pattern close to 1 syllable for the first line,  3 syllables for the 2nd line, 9 syllables for the 3rd line, 6 syllables for the 4th line, and 8 syllables for the 5th line.  There are a few deviations from this form in the 1st stanza and the 4th stanza.  The 1st stanza has 9 syllables for the last line and the 4th stanza has 8 syllables for the 4th line.  The rhyme scheme for the poem is the same all the way over, except for one exception, with the first two lines rhyming and the 2nd two line rhyming with the last line not having a rhyming partner.  The 8 stanzas all follow this pattern, but do not repeat any of the rhymes going through the poem.  The rhyme schemes goes: aabbc ddeef gghhi jjkkl mmnno ppqqr ssttu vvwwx.  The poem starts with a short sentence and ends with a short sentence and in between there are 5 other sentences.

It’s really interesting how this poem is titled the fish but doesn’t actually mention any fish throughout the entirety of the poem.  It mentions a crab, a jellyfish, and submarine toadstools which may be underwater mushrooms of some kind.

The poem starts with the title, “The Fish”, but the words before the first period are a fragment.  They have a verb and a prepositional phrase but no subject.  I think it is meant to be read as The Fish being read without a pause between it and the first 2 lines.  Read this way, the first 2 lines make more sense and create an actual sentence instead of a fragment.

The poem is formatted in a very interesting way with the first two lines lining up with one another, then the next 2 lines indented but lining up with one another, and the fifth line is double indented.  For example the first stanza is formatted as follows:

through black jade.
       Of the crow-blue mussel-shells, one keeps
       adjusting the ash-heaps;
              opening and shutting itself like

The poem follows this format with the other seven stanzas.  Not only does Moore, write in a way that is extremely descriptive and paints an image in your head, but the poem itself also paints a picture just with the format.  The poem's content speaks of the sea and the form seems to emulate that as well.  The lines ebb and flow, they start off small then build up and up until finally returning back to a small line.  The lines are a visual image of the sea coming up to the shore and then receding one again.  
In each sentence, there is either a simile, a metaphor, some kind of personification happening, or a combination of the three.
It really took me a few times to read this poem to really understand at all what was happening.  The rhyme scheme was confusing because some of the words have to be pronounced differently than I would normally say them but they do end up rhyming.

The Great Figure by William Carlos Williams

•April 19, 2011 • 9 Comments

“The Great Figure” by William Carlos Williams is a very descriptive poem. Written in free verse and only adding up to 32 words in 13 lines, “The Great Figure” is also one of the shorter poems that we have read so far. The poem itself is very straight forward as it describes a red firetruck with the number 5. I feel like there is no “hidden” meaning that comes from the content in this poem. It seems to be a recollection of what  the speaker saw in probably 5-6 seconds on a rainy evening. This means that the meaning of the poem depends heavily on its form.

Among the rain

and lights

I saw the figure 5

in gold

on a red



with weight

and urgency



to gong clangs

siren howls

and wheels rumbling

through the dark city.

The first odd thing about the poem is how its structured. I noticed that each line consists of 4 words or less. This makes the poem abnormally stretched out and “long” for its word count. If I could describe the “shape” of the poem in a physical sense, it would be big and noticeable which would fit with the aura that the firetruck seems to emit in the dark rainy night. The structure of the poem also describes the title of the poem, “The Great Figure”.

Moving on I noticed that the entire poem itself is one long sentence. Lines 1-3 and 7-8 state:

1. Among the rain

2. and lights

3. I saw the figure 5

7. moving

8. with weight and urgency

These lines have lead me to believe that the lack of punctuation reflect the fleeting image of the firetruck. In lines 7 and 8, we get the sense that the firetruck is responding to an emergency in the middle of a rainy night. As with any emergency vehicle, it is ludicrous to expect it to have to slow down for no particular reason. With this in mind, the form of the poem omits all punctuation to capture the feeling of the fleeting firetruck.

There has also been a painting by Charles Demuth that was inspired by this poem. The painting shows a bright golden 5 in what seems to be a very distraught and almost chaotic background. This can be interpreted in the poem but I have thought otherwise.

It seems that the majority of the poems that we have dissected in class tend to have deeper meaning once we take into consideration the year and historical events it was written in. It also seems that we often over think the poems in class and always provide extremely detailed answers to Kreiner’s questions. So just by reading the poem as is, I feel that William Carlos Williams perfectly described a fleeting moment in great detail with the use of very choice words. And I feel that this is the best and most simple way to understand the meaning of this poem.