The Good Woman of Setzuan

how do the Gods define goodness or being a good person?


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The play follows a young prostitute, Shen Te, as she struggles to lead a life that is "good" (according to the terms of the morality that is taught by the gods and to which her fellow citizens of 'Szechwan' (Sichuan) pay lip service), without allowing herself to be abused and trod upon by those who would accept and, more often than not, abuse her goodness. Her neighbors and friends prove so brutal in their filling of their bellies that Shen Te is forced to invent an alter ego to protect herself: a male cousin named Shui Ta, who becomes a cold and stern protector of Shen Te's interests. The theme of qualitative "goodness" (which seemed so simple and obvious in the title of the play) is rendered unstable by application to both genders, as Shen Te realizes she must operate under the guise of both in order to live a good life [citation needed].