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St Joan of the Stockyards


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A: Bertolt Brecht (with Elisabeth Hauptmann and others) Pf: 1959, Hamburg Pb: 1932 Tr: 1956 G: Drama in 11 scenes; German prose and verse choruses S: Chicago stockyards, stock exchange, etc., c. 1930 C: 11m, 3f, choruses (m and f), extrasJoan Dark, a lieutenant in the Salvation Army (here called the ‘Black Strawhats’), ‘descends to the depths’ in order to bring God to ‘dehumanised humanity’. Her main target is Pierpoint Mauler, a ruthless capitalist who has closed his meatpacking factory, causing poverty and misery amongst the workers. Moved by Joan's appeal, he donates money to the Strawhats, but insists that she sees for herself that the poor are so evil and lazy that they are not worth helping. She recognizes however that their degradation and selfishness are caused by poverty. She therefore persuades Mauler to buy unwanted meat and livestock, which, as well as helping the poor, eventually makes Mauler even richer. Other speculators now offer money to the mission, if Joan will use her influence on Mauler to release the livestock. Joan indignantly refuses this bribe, but it is accepted by the head of the mission Snyder. Since Mauler refuses to reopen his slaughterhouses, Joan joins a strike in the snow, but leaves when the Communists threaten violence. With the support of the Strawhats, Mauler negotiates a favourable settlement with the strikers, condemning the workers to continued poverty. Joan, dying of pneumonia, denounces God, the class system, and the path of non-violence. But her words are drowned out as she is canonized as the saviour of the workers and the meat industry.

A: Bertolt Brecht (with Elisabeth Hauptmann and others) Pf: 1959, Hamburg Pb: 1932 Tr: 1956 G: Drama in 11 scenes; German prose and verse choruses S: Chicago stockyards, stock exchange, etc., c. 1930 C: 11m, 3f, choruses (m and f), extras

This Marxist retelling of the St Joan story, based on Elisabeth Hauptmann's Happy End (1929), shows someone, who like the Young Comrade in The Measures Taken, acting from the noblest social motives, paradoxically helps the capitalists to greater power. The implication is that only violent revolution will change society, something, which apart from a radio broadcast in 1932, prevented its being performed for almost three decades.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Bertolt Brecht (1898—1956) German dramatist, producer, and poet


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