Mother Courage and Her Children

Mother Courage and Her Children Summary and Analysis of Scene Six

Mother Courage is enjoying a newfound prosperity, and she undertakes a stock check on the day of the funeral of the fallen general Tilly. She refuses to allow some low-ranking soldiers into her tent, but she happily sells them brandy--they have dodged out of the funeral. Courage feels sorry for the dead general, lamenting the way the common people do not lend their full support to the larger plans.

There is then a long conversation about the duration of the war, with Mother Courage anxiously raising the crucial question of how long it will last. If it is to continue, she can comfortably invest in new goods for the cart. If it will finish soon, she cannot risk investing for fear of being left with unsaleable goods. The Chaplain convinces her that the war will last--there might be a short hiatus, but war always will ultimately continue. The Clerk wants peace to come, but the Chaplain thinks that the Pope and Emperor will contrive to keep the soldiers fighting. Comparing it to love, he seems to see war's continuance as a positive thing. Talking of the redundancy of peace in today's climate, he poses the riddling phrase, "what is the hole once the cheese is eaten?"

Kattrin runs angrily behind the cart at the Chaplain's verdict (her mother has insisted she wait until peacetime before she gets a male friend). She is sent immediately to pick up some merchandise from a nearby camp. "Don't let them take anything" says Courage, and again, playing on her daughter's sexual repression for the good of her business, "think of your dowry."

After Kattrin has left, Courage lights up the Cook's pipe, and the Chaplain converses with her as he chops firewood. He dislikes the Cook, while Courage quite likes him, a foreshadowing of their future sexual partnership. He complains that his clerical talents are being underused, and--with ambiguous motives--suggests a marriage, or at least a closer (perhaps sexual) relationship. She hints that she does not want to take anyone into her business, and when he tries to appeal to her soul, she tells him, "I don't have a soul. I do, however, need firewood." All she wants, she says in this scene, is to "get my kids through this war" (a goal, we will see, that will never be achieved).

Kattrin staggers back in, having been assaulted while bringing the merchandise back to her mother. But she has not, significantly, dropped or disregarded any of the merchandise she was supposed to be carrying. Courage dresses her wound and attempts to comfort her by presenting her with Yvette's red shoes, hidden in the cart. Kattrin rejects them and crawls back into the cart. Courage, examining the merchandise with which Kattrin has returned with, and for the only time in the play, curses the war.


Like the fighting, the big event of the war--Tilly's funeral--happens offstage. Again, Brecht keeps the focus on the little people rather than the world-level leaders. The possibility of peace hangs over the scene. Peace actually will ruin Courage's business, but it will delight her daughter. The audience's sympathy, and the moral high ground, is clearly with Kattrin's sexual desires rather than her mother's financial ones.

Yet, the scene brutally cauterizes Kattrin's ambiguous sexual awakening with a brutal attack. Shortly before she goes on her mother's errand, Kattrin's hopes of acquiring a husband are dashed by the Chaplain's forecast of a perpetual war. The scar on her face as a result of the assault will prevent her from ever attaining a husband. This is what Courage suggests, and her idea is supported by the events of the play.

The reason Kattrin rejects the red boots at the end of the scene is not because she is morally superior to the sexual promiscuity that they represent (Yvette, their previous owner, is a prostitute) but because they are no longer of any use. Disfigured, she will never know the joys of a marriage bed, and she will never have the children of her own that she so clearly desires.

The scene's focus on marriage also extends into an unflattering insight into the Chaplain. Watching her smoke the pipe (smoked during intercourse by Yvette's "Peter the Puff") incites a desire for her body and her business. She rejects him in terms of the business. The only attractive morals in this scene are Kattrin's, though the literal disfiguration that the war gives her in this scene destroys the possibility of these morals taking root beyond Kattrin. The role of Kattrin's dumbness is thus neatly underlined.