Brecht was an expressionist, his works effectively gathered together the major streams of theatrical modernism. He dismissed the “Aristotelian” dramatic forms and the culinary commercial entertainment because he wanted to represent the world “as being capable of transformation”. He believed that art had a pivotal role in ensuring social justice, and had a moral and aesthetic purpose to serve. Carried into the dualistic, even schizoid figures of his mature plays, where instinct conflicts with the dictates of wealth or class, this created a radically different type of dramatic character from the coherent individual of Naturalism. Meyerhold says about Brecht, “He breaks down characterization by emphasizing the act of acting separating out the various elements of presentation”. Brecht has the wonderful gift of putting flesh and blood into his characters. He enabled people to question, and his characters questioning while facing the audience directly actively engaged the audience into this practice of seeing how drama exists beyond the idea of being cloaked by the abstraction of catharsis.       

Brecht said that he was not interested in the “good old days, but the bad new ones”. As a playwright, he knew he was bestowed with the responsibility of delivering something productive to his audiences in a way that would make them leave the theatre energized to question, criticize and evaluate the nature of things around them. Brecht never wallowed in the romanticized past in the believed in jolting people from their sated stupor; for Brecht, exploring the new times was a challenge and instead of contributing to a culinary theatre, he constructed one wherein the issues plaguing the society would be displayed and resolution would be decided by the audiences themselves.

Brecht talked about bringing together “instruction” and “entertainment”. Entertainment, he believed needed to be augmented with a moral purpose. Previously, within the social circles, the prevalent perspective about experiencing entertainment was coupled with the idea of being sinful, this profound sense of sinfulness hinted upon the depravity within individuals’ lives. In Brechtian theatre, critical examination which was true to its instructive nature was translated into a thoroughly enjoyable dramatic enactment.

His philosophy about “a rumbling stomach not being a respecter of persons” and “morality not growing on empty stomachs”, influenced Shaw and other playwrights as well, allowing them to crystallize similar notions. Brecht’s theatre stimulates a healthy debate within the minds of the audiences, making them discuss the obstinate pursuits of individuality, the individual pragmatism, the practicalities of life, and the situational relativity of various societies, all the while making them understand the concepts needed to see whether the notions of justice and virtues are practically applicable to a particular society or not.

Brecht sees the flaws within social patterns and society itself, he creates a thought-provoking idea of how the circumstantial and situational necessity differs from society to society and therefore fairness instead of justice and plain decency instead of ardent virtues need to be practiced in societies where merely being good could be a problematic affair. The play A Good Person of Setzuan is not one that asks as to how Shenteh will remain a good person despite her circumstances, but as to how to create a society where every person can be good and remain good. Brechtian theatre is highly opposed to the idea of exceptionality, he wanted to create a theatre that addressed the issues of every man and his predicament, while also engaging his audiences with finding the solutions for improving their condition as a community.

The sequential quality is removed from Brechtian theatre. His theatre is about the whole community and its collective predicaments, every scene has its own plot lines and relevance. Edward Bond said, “as far as the episodic quality is concerned, I do have a linkage” hinting at how Brecht’s work had an influence on him. A great dramatist guides his audiences through different tributaries, and that is what Brecht as a dramatist did. Some of the main features that highlights how Brecht was concerned with the overall development of the society and wanted to invest and channelize his efforts towards the “bad new days” instead of reminiscing over the ”good old ones”, is that he made issues that stamped and scarred human lives with lifelong painful reminders like the struggle for survival, war and poverty, his characters.

In A Good Person of Setzuan, Poverty is a vociferous character, just like the War is one in Mother Courage. Here the Maslow’s Pyramid comes into engagement and one starts questioning whether self-actualization within an individual can take place without the basic provision of food, shelter and clothes to him? Other questions appear that jolt the audiences from their sated standards of living, like what is needed to sustain existence, is it intelligence or is it hunger? In Mother Courage, Brecht speaks volumes about how war in itself is a “suicidal” attempt, and how ironic it is: the act of killing in war and killing one’s conscience. There is a quote in the play, “Human race runs wild”, which explains how men are used as cannon fodder and how the human race in general is conditioned and exposed to all sorts of negativity, rendering it impossible for it to follow a decent, civilized code of law, and the individuals are not to be blamed for their hideous acts because it is really a hideous world they dwell in. He shows how because they are so poor, for instance in A Good Person of Setzuan, they are bound to be exploitative towards Shenteh.  

The socialist theories are not simply spouted by characters, there is not any psychologizing of the characters either. The Shenteh in A Good Person of Setzuan represents many Shentehs and one aspect where psychology does come in, is when Shenteh denies herself, because of her situation, and becomes Shui Ta.

The Caucasian Chalk Circle, talks about a deeper philosophy explaining how what one has is not by virtue of his birth right, he has to work towards earning it. The other idea portrayed through the play is that of justice, and how it needs to be easily accessible in all societies; Brecht says that it is possible to do things in a capricious way, the way that Azdak dispenses justice is moreover a travesty, and he does so with a common-sense quality, however what Brecht highlights is that the veritable judge who is actually supposed to dispense justice, is incapable, just like in The Good Person of Setzuan the gods are incapable, therefore the very subversive idea of making Azdak a judge becomes paramount. Hence, Brecht invents a character who would have a messianic presence, would resolve issues in the play and leave, but what he actually expedites upon is the notion that in practical human lives, there are no Azdaks, and therefore human beings cannot rely on a kind of masquerade, they are supposed to bear their own cross and help each other.

Just like in Mother Courage, the way that she depends on the war and benefits from it, sort of cuts through her motherliness, because she is in a way contributing to the war effort, which is why Brecht displays how human beings as representatives of society, cannot be defined in absolute terms.

Brecht does not irrationally sentimentalize his characters. In The ThreePenny Opera Brecht shows how there comes a stage when the characters go completely no-holds-barred because their situation keeps worsening, they become ruffians, and that is because of their situation; this idea is depictive of how Brecht places the responsibility upon the shoulders of individuals and leads his audiences into understanding this notion of coming out of their deceptive platitudes regarding the past and look into the present and the future. The babies in The Caucasian Chalk Circle and The Good Person of Setzuan are reflective of this future that Brecht wants the audiences to secure by working towards making their present lives better. The greater ideology that he espouses is of revolutionizing the system of law, discrediting the concept of a “holy” and “glorious” war and generally pursuing individuality but in a way that it helps the community in a productive manner.   

Conclusively, in his endeavor to enhance the actor-audience relationship, Brecht’s plays constantly brush against the grain, signifying that life needs to be handled pragmatically, so that individuals become cognizant of their capabilities to make something of their lives.