Study Guide

Mother Courage and Her Children Plot Analysis

By Bertolt Brecht

Plot Analysis

Exposition (Initial Situation)

Rollin' With My Family

First things first. We meet Mother Courage on the road, with her family completely intact. In the first scene, when she is stopped by a soldier and a recruiter for the Swedish army, we find out who she is, who her children are, and what's she up to with that wagon. We figure out she's running a canteen business to make money off the war, while keeping her children safe from brutality.

Rising Action (Conflict, Complication)

Betting the House (or Not)

The first complication is there already in the first scene. The recruiter manages to recruit Eilif, despite all Courage's efforts to keep him out of the war. But arguably the more serious conflict arises when Swiss Cheese is executed by the invading Catholics. At that point, the you-know-what really hits the fan. And what's worse, it seems like Courage's unwillingness to sell her business indirectly costs Swiss Cheese his life. The very thing she hoped to use to keep her family safe during the war proves to be its downfall.

Climax (Crisis, Turning Point)

Drumming Like You Just Don't Care

We can't really talk about a "turning point" in the plot of Mother Courage, since Courage herself never really seems to change. But the death and heroism of Kattrin definitely seems like a high point in the tragic dissolution of Courage's family unit. After this, Courage is alone and penniless.

Falling Action

Riding Off Into the Sunset (of Hopeless Solitude and Endless Remorse?)

The last we see of Mother Courage is her cradling her dying daughter, who has just sacrificed herself to save her mother and an entire town. Then Courage hitches herself to her wagon and continues on her way. We're left to wonder what will await her, and what she'll do all on her own. Something tells us it won't exactly be living happily ever after.

Resolution (Denouement)

Well, Not Really

Brecht goes out of his way to give his audience no real resolution. The last we hear of Mother Courage is her singing the refrain from the very first song she sings, way back in Scene I. We might get the sense that she's right back where she was at the beginning. Has she learned anything? Probably not.