The Good Woman of Setzuan

The Good Woman of Setzuan Summary and Analysis of Scenes 6 and 6a


Scene 6 is set in "the 'private dining room' on the upper floor of a cheap restaurant in a poor section of town." Shen Te is there with her wedding guests: some of the family that has been taking advantage of her, the unemployed man, and Mrs. Shin. Yang Sun and Mrs. Yang, his mother, are removed from the crowd and have a secret conversation in which Yang reveals to his mother that Shen Te has said she can't sell the shop for him because of the loan from the old couple. His mother says, "Of course you can't marry her now," and he replies that since there is nothing in writing, he will try to reason with Shui Ta about it. Mrs. Yang leaves to go look for Shui Ta.

Shen Te finds Yang Sun and they have a toast "to the future," casually joking about what their marriage will be like. Mrs. Yang returns without Shui Ta, and the Priest who has been waiting to marry the couple gets up to leave. Mrs. Yang says loudly to Shen Te that she doesn't know where Shui Ta could be, revealing to Shen Te that the three hundred silver dollars is still important to Yang Sun and his mother: without the money, negotiated by Shui Ta, Yang Sun will not marry her. They decide to wait another fifteen minutes for Shui Ta.

Mrs. Yang announces to the guests that Yang Sun has been hired as a mail pilot in Peking, and that she and he are moving there. When Shen Te asks Yang Sun to let his mother down easily, he says that he doesn't agree; he still wants to move to Peking and when Shui Ta arrives, he will negotiate with him to get the money he needs from Shen Te.

At this point, Shen Te tells Yang Sun that Shui Ta will not bring the three hundred silver dollars, since he told her that Yang Sun bought only one ticket to Peking, revealing that she knows about the conversation he had with her "cousin" the day before. However, Yang Sun shows her two tickets; he tells her that they will have to leave his mother behind.

The waiter enters and asks if they want another pitcher of wine. When Mrs. Yang says no, he asks her to pay the bill. She refuses, and the waiter reveals that this is not the first time Mrs. Yang hasn't been able to pay the bill at this restaurant. Finally, the priest leaves, and it becomes clear to everyone that the wedding is not going to happen because Shui Ta has not arrived with the rest of the money Yang Sun needs to get the job in Peking.

All the wedding guests exit except for Shen Te, Yang Sun, and Mrs. Yang. Yang Sun makes a fake announcement to the wedding guests, who are no longer there, explaining that the ceremony is postponed because Shui Ta has not arrived: "Also because the bride doesn't know what love is." He is taunting Shen Te for not "loving" him enough to sell everything she owns so he can follow his dream of becoming a pilot again. He sings a song about wasted dreams, which he calls St. Nevercome's Day.

Scene 6a takes place in Wong's sewer. The gods visit him in a dream again, and he asks them to intervene in Shen Te's life since "she's in great trouble from following the rule about loving thy neighbor." However, they refuse to intervene, citing various clichés like "suffering ennobles!" and "the gods help those that help themselves" to justify it.


Brecht's use of dramatic irony is especially poignant in Scene 6. As the scene opens, Yang Sun and his mother say they have to find Shui Ta so he can get out of marrying Shen Te. Immediately following this exchange, which Shen Te does not witness, Shen Te addresses the audience, explaining that she "wasn't mistaken" to trust Yang Sun. The audience knows that she in fact was mistaken to trust him.

At the end of Scene 6, Yang Sun sings The Song of St. Nevercome's Day, about the day people wait for when their lives will change. Of course, it never comes. His dream is to be a pilot, but because he doesn't have the money to buy the job in Peking, the day when he flies again will never come. The song occurs within the context of the play: he tells Shen Te, "While we're waiting, the bridegroom will sing a little song." However, the scene ends with him, Shen Te, and Mrs. Yang looking at the door, waiting for Shui Ta. Shui Ta will never come.

"Goodness" as a theme is addressed in Scenes 6 and 6a by Yang Sun and by the gods, respectively. The Song of St. Nevercome, sung by Yang Sun, reveals that he believes it is futile to try to be "good." He sings sarcastically, "Oh, hooray, hooray! That day goodness will pay!" and describes the day that will never come as when "all men will be good without batting an eye." To him, this day is unachievable. The gods cite goodness as a strength, telling Wong that they cannot intervene in Shen Te's life because "The good man finds his own way here below! The good woman too."

Love is represented as a weakness in Scene 6. After the would-be wedding guests depart, Yang Sun makes a fake announcement, explaining that the ceremony is postponed because Shui Ta has not arrived, but "also because the bride doesn't know what love is." He is making the point to Shen Te that if she loved him, she would sell her shop to support him in his dream of becoming a pilot in Peking. Nevertheless, it is clear to the audience that it is Yang Sun himself who doesn't know what love is, since he has betrayed Shen Te.

The theme of Patriarchal Capitalism is apparent in Scene 6, when it is revealed that the marriage will not happen without Shui Ta's presence (which is, of course, impossible). This is because Yang Sun believes Shui Ta will sell Shen Te's tobacco shop in order to get Yang Sun the money he needs to fly again. When Shen Te tells him that she has promised the money to the old couple to repay the loan they gave her, Yang Sun retorts, "And since you always do the wrong thing, it's lucky your cousin's coming."