Literary works have been used to not only highlight the problems in the society but also to provide the suitable solutions for such problems. Fascism and Capitalism of the Nazi regime in Germany led to the oppression of many people in the community. Brecht, one of the renowned writers used his literary works to condemn the two elements as he sought to promote Marxism in the society.
Brecht’s poem “Legende vom totem Soldaten” (Legend of the Dead Soldier) is among the literary works that he used to condemn fascism in the society. The poem revolves around an incidence whereby the Kaiser has a dead soldier disinterred, after which he declares him fit and sends him to the front line in war again. This depicts how Brecht detested the extremes that the Nazi regime were willing to go just to strengthen their war in the community. The dead soldier who was resend to the battlefield can be termed as a portrayal of the desperation of the Nazis to use anyone available, while disregarding humanity, to achieve their egocentric goals.
Brecht used the most appropriate literary technique of communicating the evils in the society to his audience. This supported his belief that literature is one of the most effective tools for making the world a better place especially making people aware of the social abuses. Being a Marxist, he used every means possible (in literature) to bring out the Marxist goal of a classless Utopia to realization. He used realism in his theater productions. He believed that “realism lays bare society’s causal network” (Michaels 2003, pp. 12). He writes most of his works from a proletariat point of view which acts as the a means of sensitizing the majority of the people in the society to actively seek the solutions for their problems. This ensured that the Nazis faced much opposition from the community since most of the people belonged to the low class, the oppressed, that had prepared solutions for the most pressing problems afflicting human society especially those caused by poor governance-fascism (Grimm, and Molina 2003, pp. 69).
He employs literary techniques that would appeal to wide audiences as opposed to the few elite in the society. He wanted to reach out to the majority in the society that were under the oppression of the Nazi regime (Martin, 1999, pp. 54). He uses folk sayings and street ballads among other folk forms in his plays. He also used biblical allusions to reach out to people with his theatre productions. Brecht confesses that Martin Luther’s German translation of the English bible was the “single most important” factor that influenced his work (Michaels, 2003, pp. 25). His parodies especially in most of his classical works acts as a tool of making his audience (mostly the low class people) question the values of the middle-class, which was composed mainly of capitalists.
The use of historical material in most of his plays also played an important role in inciting the community to seek for change from the oppressive regime. The effect of such material, according to him, would be effective in making his audience more aware of the world they were living in. One of the most important implications is that people would see that life is impermanent and that there are no universal values. This increased their zeal to change their world, which was Brecht’s goal. His play, The Life of Galileo, is among the literary works that had a great deal of historical material. He wrote the play out of his concern for his comrades as well as friends who remained as workers in the Nazi Germany and had to struggle to earn a living.
He used the play The Life of Galileo to condemn capitalism in the society. The main character’s lifestyle becomes the source of his many problems in life. He could do just about anything to get money and fame. For instance, when Ludovico tells about the telescope he leaves the country for France where he thought he had a better chance of advancing the discovery for his good. However, he does not get the permission and chance to publish his works thus unable to meet his greed. By portraying such a picture of the renowned scientist, Brecht was able to condemn capitalism, which was one of evils of the Nazi regime (Mitchell, 2003, pp. 16). Additionally, Galileo can be termed as a perfect example of the capitalists who promoted class discrimination in the society, an aspect that made most of the people in the society. For instance, he only enrolls students from rich families. Some of them were not even interested in learning science. For instance, Ludovico, joined his classes not because he wanted to learn but because his mother, one of the affluent members of the society, wants him to learn about science as she believes it would help them uphold their class in the society.
Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children also plays an educative role in enhancing change in the society. It draws its inspiration from some of the contemporary events but form an historical perspective or rather point of view. The play has much criticism of not only war but also business. According to Michaels, this play was a demonstration to the people of how was a “continuation of business by other means and that it makes human virtues deadly” (2003, p. 30). This tells the community that they should be willing to fight against war especially the leaders who used it as a tool to oppress the less privileged in the society. Anna Fierling, also referred to as Courage in the play loses all her children because she was committed to enhancing the success or rather the well-being of her business at the expense of her children. She fails to sacrifice her wagon, which led to the death of Swiss Cheese. Her mother did not care about the safety of her children. She sends her child, Kattrin, to fetch her supplies an incidence that led to her death. She also loses Eilif while pursuing cheap supplies from those who were fleeing from the war. The play condemned capitalism since it caused individuals to lose family ties as well as endanger their families in the name of business.
The Caucasian Chalk Circle promotes the socialist Utopia in the society. For instance, the first scene presents a dispute over land between two groups that was solved without fighting. The goat raisers agreed to give the land to the fruit growers based on the suitability of the land for fruit growing due to its topography as opposed to rearing goats. The use of good institutions for solving cases has also been depicted in the play. Marriage disputes can be handled in the courts as is the case with Grusche, Azdak and Simon. The play generally promotes the peaceful co-existence of the members of the community, which was lacking due to fascism and capitalism in the Nazi regime (Bradley, 2006, pp. 85).
Brecht used his literary works to condemn fascism and capitalism in the society. The poem Legend of the Dead Soldier condemns the use of war to protect the interests of a few in the society. He also uses plays such as Life of Galileo and Mother Courage and Her Children to condemn the impunity of the ideologies which were the cause of the problems for the majority of the people. He portrays how the desire for money and power creates more problems as opposed to solutions required for the society’s problems. The Caucasian Chalk Circle is a play that promotes the socialist utopia as the solution for the problems that were caused by fascism and capitalism.
Bradley, L., 2006. Brecht and Political Theatre: The Mother on Stage. Oxford, GBR: Oxford University
Grimm, R.V. and Molina, C. Y., 2003. Poetry and Prose: Bertolt Brecht. London, GBR: Continuum
Martin, C., 1999. Brecht Sourcebook. Florence, KY: Routledge.
Michaels, J., 2003. Bertholt Brecht: Critical Survey of Drama, Second Revised Edition. New York:
Routledge. Available through: Newhaven University Library Website
Mitchell, R., 2003. Brecht in L.A. Bristol, GBR: Intellect Ltd.