Mother Courage and Her Children – Symbolism

Mother Courage’s Wagon as a Symbol

The wagon symbolizes survival and the continuation of war. It was due to vested interests of individuals like Mother Courage and the Recruiting Officers, war continues bringing havoc upon people’s lives and livelihood. The wagon symbolizes the business and profession of Mother Courage who uses it to trudge her wares and survive without the help of any man. The wagon also changes hands by way of her three children, the Cook, the Chaplain. It is the only means of livelihood for the mother. The wagon gets broken and vandalized but continues doggedly at conducting the main purpose of selling and reinforcing the belief that war is business and capitalism. The Mother through the symbolism of wagon represents the doggedness and determination to continue her business amidst all the tragedies taken place in her life. The wagon also traverses borders and travels throughout Europe. At a deeper level, the wagon symbolises the inherent brutality of the war and how it is synonymous with the character of Mother Courage.

The Red Boots of Yvette

The red boots worn by Yvette symbolise sexual attraction in the play. Yvette wears them to attract customers but discards them later out of frustration. When Kattrin wears them and playfully imitates Yvette’s walk, it painfully symbolizes her aging and lack of love. As the play progresses, the audience learns about Kattrin’s abuse by men that has scarred both physically and mentally. When mother gives the same boots to cheer Kattrin, it suggests abuse at the hands of soldiers. Her rejection of the boots symbolizes rejection of love and fulfilment.

Silence and Dumbness

Kattrin symbolizes this aspect in the play. Her silence reflects the silence and sacrifice of virtues during war time. At the same time her silence was probably due to silencing her voice during war by means of assault and abuse.

The Drum

The drum symbolizes protest and resistance to violence unleashed due to war. It acts as a vehicle of resistance for the peasants and to kattrin. The drum becomes a voice for the mute and unvoiced Kattrin to express her anguish and frustration about the war. Through the drum beats, Kattrin alerts the villagers about the enemy attacking them. She continues to play the drum louder and louder as the soldiers aim to shoot her. Kattrin dies a tragic death playing the drum and getting shot by the soldiers.

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