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A: Bertolt Brecht Pf: 1932, Berlin Pb: 1932; rev. 1938 Tr: 1965 G: Pol. drama in 15 scenes; German prose with songs S: Russia, 1905–17 C: 18m, 7f, extrasPelagea Vlassova is so poor that she can afford to give only watery soup to her son Pavel. She asks the audience what a poor widow can do, especially as Pavel's wages have been cut by the Suchlinov works. When Pavel invites revolutionary workers back to their apartment, Vlassova is very worried. The Tsarist police raid the house, leaving it in a mess. In order to protect Pavel, Vlassova offers to distribute revolutionary pamphlets and so finds herself being drawn into political involvement. When she witnesses the brutal suppression of a peaceful demonstration, she becomes fully committed to the socialist cause. Pavel is arrested and sent to Siberia, and she becomes an active revolutionary, learns to read, and helps striking workers. When Pavel escapes from Siberia, mother and son feel closer than ever before. Even when Pavel is arrested and shot, she does not waver in her commitment, rejecting the hypocritical sympathy of her neighbours. Vlassova, as an old woman, carries the red flag in the 1917 anti-war demonstration that will lead to the Bolshevik Revolution.

A: Bertolt Brecht Pf: 1932, Berlin Pb: 1932; rev. 1938 Tr: 1965 G: Pol. drama in 15 scenes; German prose with songs S: Russia, 1905–17 C: 18m, 7f, extras

Loosely based on a novel by Gorky, Brecht traced here the development of an ordinary working-class woman into full revolutionary consciousness. Employing many of his ‘distancing’ techniques, including direct address to the audience and songs set to Hanns Eisler's music, Brecht was attempting to inspire his contemporaries to resist Fascism, despite the obvious setbacks that the socialist cause was suffering.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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