The real name of Mother Courage is Anna Feirling in the play. She is a mother of three children Eilif, Swiss Cheese and Kattrin. She operates a small business as a canteen woman selling products, food and drinks to soldiers and military from a wagon. Mother Courage is a representative of the brutalities, hypocrisy, corruption, capitalist forces operating in war. The three children of Mother Courage have been born in three different countries of Europe and with three different fathers. Brecht has taken extreme care to portray Mother Courage as an antithetical image to the traditional roles of a mother. On the one hand, audience sympathise with Mother as the only provider of the family and also who struggles for survival. She looks at war as an ongoing opportunity to make money and keep her head above water. Having lost one son already to the war, she is not ready to sacrifice her second son Eilif to the war but is unable to prevent it by the Recruiting Officer.
She earned the nickname Mother Courage as she boldly ran through the bombardment to sell her loaves of bread before they perish. The title of the play itself creates the image of a formidable woman possessing several admirable qualities. Mother Courage the central character of the play produces a mingled impression upon the readers of the play. Brecht depicts mother with admirable qualities as well as certain weaknesses. The root cause of her suffering is in some of her faults, weaknesses and surroundings.
Mother Courage also represents the theme of motherhood in the play reflecting the anxiety and tension of a mother trying extremely hard to save her sons from the war. Mother Courage realizes the cruelty of war. She is aware of destructiveness and terrible misfortunes that have befallen in her personal life. The contradictions in Mother Courage are perceived throughout the play. Once she praises the war for feeding its people better than peace does. Immediately in the very next utterance, she shows her resentment and warns the soldiers of the premature death they would meet. She considers herself as ruined by peace. The lament of Mother Courage provokes the Chaplain to describe her as a “hyena of the battlefield”.
As the play progresses, Mother Courage’s character also undergoes changes that is portrayed by Brecht as anti- motherhood. However she pines for her children and gives up the comforts of leading a decent life with the Cook because of her mute daughter kattrin. Mother Courage also sings songs in the play that depict various events in the play. In the end Brecht informs that despite the deaths of her children, Mother Courage does not change her ways and continues with whatever she was doing.