The Presentation And Significance Of The Maternal Instinct In So Long A Letter (Mariama Bâ) And Mother Courage And Her Children (Bertolt Brecht)

1675 words - 7 pages

Frequent references to maternal instinct can be found in So long a letter and Mother Courage and her Children. Certain aspects of a character reveal themselves in the behaviour and actions taken due to the maternal instinct. In addition to giving insight into character, both Bâ and Brecht use the maternal instinct to signify specific developments in the plot. Therefore, by analysing the presentation of the maternal instinct, insights into many of the ideas that the writers are trying to communicate can be gained. This paper will compare the ways in which the maternal instinct is used for the above purposes in the short novel and the play.When writing Mother Courage and her Children ...view middle of the document...

The strength of the maternal instinct is directly proportional to her economic situation. Throughout the play Mother Courage is partly presented through the use of coarse and vulgar language in order to compel the audience's reaction:You varmint...A slasher, that's what he is.3In comparison to Mother Courage and her Children the less erratic maternal instinct in So long a letter is primarily influenced by culture and religion, but secondly also by economic aspects of life. After Ramatoulaye's husband's death the rising lack of money, lack of social stability and ability to cope develop the relationship between Ramatoulaye and her children. The author tries to develop the character of Ramatoulaye into a realistic one, with a linear development. In the beginning of the novel Ramatoulaye's maternal instinct can be described as slightly conservative:...we suffered the social constrains and heavy burdens of custom.4,which changes with the advancement of the plot, becoming more liberal:I accepted the addition of trousers to their wardrobes.5As the plot advances Ramatoulaye's declining sense of traditional cultural values is revealed. Not wanting to limit her children culturally, more contemporary aspects of life replace Ramatoulaye's old ideals. Especially when explicitly thinking about her own behaviour towards her children it intensifies the liability of feeling responsible as part of a maternal instinct:Was I to blame for having given my daughters a bit of liberty?6No equivalent quotation can be found in Mother Courage, since Brecht's protagonist does not have a comparable sense of belonging on which values she could base aspects of her life:Hauls down the regimental flag: Bozhe moi! I'd given up noticing it were there.7.Tension between the audience and the character will be produced, due to the fact that her ideals are not consistent, implying that her maternal values are influenced by this changeability as well. Furthermore, this is an additional way of isolating the character from the audience's sympathy.In both literary texts the maternal instinct is not only revealed towards their own children but also to other characters and objects. In Bâ's novel, Ramatoulaye even develops some sense of maternal instinct for Binetou (her co-wife):Exiled in the world of adults, which was not her own, she wanted her prison gilded.8Here the involvement of the maternal instinct towards another character brings the audience closer to Ramatoulaye. Owing to that personal insight and the fact that Ramatoulaye is changing in order to improve the relationship between herself and her children, the reader feels involved and touched emotionally. A different perspective is created through the usage of the maternal instinct for something inanimate. This isolates Mother Courage from the audience even further:Sergeant: Nice family I must say.Mother Courage: Aye, me cart and me have seen the world.9Implying that a thing, her cart, also belongs to her family will be...

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