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The Difference between The Epic Form and Dramatic Form

She stands not only for a particular past--the Thirty Years' War--but also for the condition of any society unredeemed by a heroic ideal.

But where is the benefit of a moral structure of experience, and what is the benefit of heroism? Someone's ideals and objectives, after all, got everybody into the war in the first place: "When a king is a stupid king and leads his soldiers into a trap, [soldiers] need this virtue of courage. When he's tight-fisted . . . the few he does have need the heroism of Hercules--another virtue. . . . But in a good country the virtues wouldn't be necessary. Everybody could be quite ordinary" (Brecht 849). This is a bleak view of human history, where the sweep of grand events in historical time has no more meaning than the immediate results of everyday activity. History itself makes no spiritual sense, and no one is saved, either physically or spiritually. Instead, humanity marches on to the next camp, the next battleground. In fact, individuality and heroism are submerged in the and eternally recurring traditions of war.

War needs heroes if anyone is to be saved, but Catherine's fate shows that heroism is impotent. Although Catherine exposes the potentiality of the moral sense, ethical beauty, and purity, the human condition surrounding her is deaf to such potential whether expressed by a mute or by one who is completely articulate. The mythic wish for decency and peace cannot come true unless it is enacted at the retail level--and even then there are no guarantees: Catherine dies, Mother Courage mourns a bit, pays a bit of money for the peasants to bury Catherine, and pushes on, the load on the wagon lightened a bit by the absence of her daughter's body, following the soldiers and the action. She does not rise to the occasion but shows that the energy of survival is the antithesis of heroism, and that the only eternal verity is that nothing is true, nothing sacred, nothing valued except perhaps the next...

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