Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and Emile Zola’s Therese Raquin are both works with characters that possess maternal instinct. There is not a definite explanation for maternal instinct because it can be viewed differently. Although this is true, there is often a stereotype woman with the ‘right’ qualities of maternal instinct. This often articulates unrealistic images in people’s minds. Instinct means “an imposed set of values, imposed by the society” and the way they think a mother should naturally act by. Realistically, the instinct depends on the mother’s disposition, the way she wants to behave depends on her emotions, which cannot be articulated. Therefore, it is not possible to impose a definite set of values for how a mother should act for it varies from one mother to another.
Mother Courage is a mother who fights for a living so that her three children can survive the war. War to her is a necessity because she needs the business from the soldiers in order to survive, but on the other hand, war is her ultimate enemy. She is doing everything to keep her and her children from being involved with the war. It was her husband’s death that lead to her natural defenses for her children and the war which in turn resulted in expressing her strong maternal instinct.
Also, Mother Courage is forced to make decisions and puts a lot of effort into trying to stay with her children. For example, when the Cook proposes to Mother Courage, Kattrin realizes that the Cook thinks she is a burden and does not like her. Therefore, she decides to leave, but Mother Courage chooses to leave the Cook and follow Kattrin instead. Here, Mother Courage has sacrificed her potential welfare in order to ‘protect’ her only child left.
“[Mother Courage] We’ll go off in t’other direction, and we’ll throw cook’s stuff out so he finds it, silly man.”
But just by looking at this protection towards her children, one cannot readily
Assume that she is a ‘good mother’. Through various sacrifices made by her children, Brecht portrayed traits of human selfishness. For example, when the Recruiter took her bravest son, Eilif away:
“[Recruiter to Eilif] …Got your bounty money here, come along. Eilif stands undecided.”
“[Mother Courage] Half a florin it is.”
Mother Courage, who had always distasted war, loses her most valuable thing, her bravest son to war whilst bargaining the price of a best with the Sergeant. Here, Brecht uses situational irony as an example of how Mother Courage did not ‘meet the criteria’ of a stereotyped maternal instinct. Brecht gave Mother Courage an unconventional response to losing her son, where she is very unsentimental when she realizes her son is lost.
In a similar situation, when a loving mother realizes her son or daughter is missing, she is most likely to have a much more dramatic and concerned attitude when compared to Mother Courage. Despite the loss of her child, Mother Courage seems to have the opposite of this....