Arms and the Man Summary & Analysis

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Arms and the Man Summary

The play unfolds in Bulgaria in 1885, towards the top of the Serbo-Bulgarian War. Raina Petkoff and her mother Catherine have received news that Raina’s fiancé Sergius led a victorious cavalry charge against Serbian forces. Louka, the household maid, enters to announce that the windows must be locked, as fleeing Serbian troops are being hunted down within the streets. Later that night a Serbian officer climbs the drainpipe outside Raina’s balcony and breaks into her room. Bulgarian soldiers arrive, asking to examine the space, and Raina, overwhelmed by a flash of compassion, hides the enemy soldier behind her curtains. Louka is that the just one who sees through the deception, but she only smirks and leaves in silence.

Once safe, the soldier comes out from hiding and explains he’s a Swiss mercenary for the Serbian army. He admits to Raina that he doesn’t carry cartridges for his gun, only chocolates, as these are more practical for a starving soldier. Thinking him childish, Raina offers the soldier some chocolate creams, which he devours hungrily. He explains that the cavalry charge led by Raina’s fiancé Sergius was only successful as a result of dumb luck. Angered, Raina finally demands he leave, yet Swiss mercenary claims to be too exhausted to maneuver. Feeling pity, Raina agrees to shelter him and runs to seek out her mother. When the 2 women return, the chocolate cream soldier, as Raina calls him, has fallen asleep in her bed.

The second act begins with Nicola, an older servant, lecturing his fiancée Louka on appropriate conduct toward their employers. As they speak, Major Petkoff, Raina’s father, returns from the front. He announces that the war has ended with a feeling of peace, upsetting his wife Catherine who believes Bulgaria should have annexed Serbia. Shortly afterward, Raina’s fiancé Sergius arrives. The once idealistic man has grown cynical, resigning from the military and complaining about the shortage of honor and bravado among professional soldiers. He recounts an anecdote a few fleeing Swiss mercenaries escaping into the bedroom of a fascinated Bulgarian woman, alarming Raina, and Catherine. Once alone, Raina and Sergius speak of their love for every other in reverential and somewhat ridiculous tones.

Arms and the Man

As soon as Raina leaves to urge her hat, Sergius embraces Louka and complains about how exhausting his relationship together with his fiancée is. Louka claims to not understand the hypocrisy of the upper crust, saying that both Sergius and Raina pretend to like one another while flirting with people. Demanding to understand whom Raina has been seeing, Sergius grabs Louka and bruises her arm. Louka asks that he kiss it in apology but Sergius refuses even as Raina enters the garden. because the couple prepares to go away for a walk, Catherine calls Sergius to the library to assist Major Petkoff to arrange some troop movements.

Catherine and Raina discuss the importance of Sergius telling the anecdote about the escaping mercenary. To her mother’s chagrin, Raina expresses a desire for Sergius to find out of her part within the story, wishing to shock his faux propriety. As Raina exits, Louka enters and announces that a Swiss officer is at the door. Captain Bluntschli, the chocolate cream soldier, has come to return the coat that was wont to smuggle him out of the house. As Catherine attempts to send him away, Major Petkoff recognizes him from the peace negotiations, greets him warmly, and asks him to assist coordinate Bulgarian troop movements. Raina sees him within the hallway and gasps that it’s the chocolate cream soldier. Thinking quickly, she explains to her father and fiancée that she made a chocolate cream decoration within the shape of a soldier, but that Nicola has clumsily crushed it.

Later that afternoon, Captain Bluntschli makes short work of the executive tasks. Major Petkoff wonders about the fate of his old lost coat. At Catherine’s request, Nicola fetches the coat that had previously disappeared, astounding the main. The Major, Sergius, and Catherine leave to implement Bluntschli’s orders, leaving the Captain alone with Raina. Raina begins posturing, complaining how mortally wounded she is by having to lie for him. The Captain sees through her act and confronts her; he’s the primary person to ascertain her pretentious behavior for what it’s. Raina admits to behaving theatrically and suspects Bluntschli must despise her. On the contrary, Bluntschli is charmed by her posturing but cannot take it seriously. Suddenly, Bluntschli receives a telegram informing him of his father’s death and his large inheritance.

Raina and Bluntschli exit as Louka then Sergius enters. Sergius inspects Louka’s arm and offers to kiss her bruise but is rejected. Louka questions his notions of bravery, arguing that anyone could also be brave in battle but few are ready to get up to social expectations. She asks Sergius if he would marry someone below his station for love. Sergius claims he would but uses his engagement to Raina as an excuse. Hurt, Louka teases him with the knowledge that Bluntschli is Raina’s, true love.

Sergius challenges Bluntschli to a duel. Raina enters and argues with Sergius, announcing that she saw him embracing Louka. Bluntschli explains to Sergius that Raina only lets him remain in her room at gunpoint. Somewhat deflated, Sergius withdraws from the duel. When Bluntschli suggests that Louka join the conversation, Sergius leaves to seem for her, only to seek out her eavesdropping within the hallway. Having understood that something is awry, Major Petkoff enters and demands to understand who the chocolate cream soldier is. Bluntschli admits that it’s he. Raina explains that she is not any longer engaged to Sergius, as he loves Louka. Sergius kisses Louka’s hand, committing himself to marry her. Louka’s original fiancé Nicola gracefully bows out. Bluntschli follows Sergius’ lead and asks for Raina’s hand. The Captain’s new inheritance – a successful chain of hotels – persuades Major Petkoff to comply with the wedding. Bluntschli leaves to require care of his father’s estate with promises to return during a fortnight. 


Arms and the Man Analysis


Arms and therefore the Man mayberomantic comedy that centers on the “clash of ignorance and knowledge” (Lee 101); the play pits realism against the romantic ideas and delusions that surround the topics of affection and war. In Act, I the sensible Swiss mercenary, later identified as Captain Bluntschli, represents knowledge and realism. Bluntschli has little regard for heroic conventions which may involve daring cavalry charges or willingness to face death with ease. He understands that when fighting multi-day battles food rations are often more important and effective at ensuring survival than weapons. He has no romantic or nationalistic notions of honor and glory in battle; he approaches soldiering as an accountant might approach accounting, simply as knowledgeable. Though George Bernard Shaw satirizes romanticized notions of war, he retains respect for the war itself; Bluntschli, the knowledgeable soldier, is probably the play’s most grounded and competent character.

Bluntschli’s knowledge quickly collides with Raina’s romantic delusions. When Raina rapturously asks about the “great” cavalry charge, he explains that Sergius’ grand military gesture was unprofessional and would have led to slaughter if not for dumb luck. He disabuses her of the notion that real soldiers never tire, never hunger and never fears. After 36 hours without sleeping and 72 hours of being under attack, Bluntschli is exhausted, famished, and understandably apprehensive.

Though Bluntschli manages to complicate Raina’s understanding he doesn’t yet dispel her delusions, which are deeply rooted. Raina imagines war to be a stage for grand gestures of bravery and honor. Her ecstasy at the hearing of Sergius’ charge is so exaggerated to be comical. When confronted with Bluntschli’s pragmatic approach to war she is appalled and thinks him a coward unfit for battle. Her approach to like is similarly theatrical and ludicrous: she holds Sergius’ picture above her like “a priestess”, worshiping at an altar of affection (5).

Yet the primary act hints that this romanticism may be a veneer and Raina’s true views are more complicated. Her romantic posturing is self-conscious, as when she stands on the balcony at the very beginning of the play. Moreover, she reveals that she had serious doubts about Sergius’ participation in the war, as she was worried that their grand ideas were nothing quite a fantasy absorbed from poetry and operas. Raina is additionally the sole woman within the play to acknowledge and worry about the violence and cruelty of war. This impulse leads her to guard Bluntschli. Finally, she has some attraction to the sensible if unheroic Bluntschli, showing her affection when she calls him a “poor dear” after he finally passes out.

The play effectively mocks Raina’s class pretensions, which seem to spring from an equivalent source as her romantic delusions. Raina imagines a world crammed with dashing soldiers, pure ladies, and stylish nobles. She strives to emulate the rich nobility within the fiction she consumes, as when she decides to harbor Captain Bluntschli after remembering an opera during which a noble family protects a fugitive. Yet Raina’s aspirations are ridiculous. She wears fur coats that cost quite all her furniture; she proudly calls an area with one bookshelf a library, and she or he decorates with cheap Viennese furnishings. Likewise, Catherine insists on wearing tea gowns and adopting other habits of the upper Western classes.

Chocolate is an everlasting and sophisticated symbol throughout Arms and therefore the Man. When first introduced it is a logo of Captain Bluntschli’s pragmatism and disdain for romanticism. rather than carrying his cartridges, which are later revealed to be useless as they’re the wrong size, Swiss mercenary carries chocolate. During this point period, soldiers often carried chocolate with low milk content as rations; such chocolate rarely spoiled, even in humid conditions, and will provide a big amount of calories, even in small portions (Satran 26). Some readers may, like Raina, incorrectly assume Bluntschli was carrying sweets or other luxurious treats. The chocolate soldiers carried was dry, gritty and brittle; it had been not an indulgence, but a practical ration for the sector.

In contrast, Raina features a box of chocolate creams, luxurious confectionery treats that spoiled quickly and were above the reach of most lower and bourgeoisie citizens. during this form, chocolate represents Raina’s romantic and impractical notions. Bluntschli gratefully devours the chocolate creams, but out of very practical hunger, not out of any desire for indulgence. In her ignorance about the utilization of chocolate as field rations, Raina misunderstands Bluntschli’s real purpose keep chocolate in his cartridge boxes, viewing him as ridiculous and naming him a “chocolate cream soldier” (15). Yet Bluntschli is anything but, he’s the foremost practical and professional soldier depicted within the play.

The title of Arms and therefore the Man may be a regard to the primary line of Virgil’s Aeneid, a Latin heroic poem describing the journey and heroics of Aeneas. The poem begins by announcing that it’ll sing of arms and therefore the man and continues to celebrate the fantastic story of Aeneas. George Bernard Shaw satirizes the poem by mirroring it throughout his play. At every opportunity Shaw reflects the Aeneid then effectively undercuts it. Aeneas, a particularly handsome man, arrives as a fugitive at his future wife Dido’s magnificent and opulent home, having been driven inland by a sea storm. When soldiers from an opposing force come trying to find him, Aeneas uses supernatural means to remain hidden within a cloud; his deception is flawless. Comparatively, Bluntschli, a mean-looking man, arrives at a house whose greatest claim to local fame has an inside staircase. he’s within the middle of actively fleeing from battle. When the Bulgarians come to look for him, he’s left to lamely hide behind a curtain and even forgets his pistol in plain sight. By diminishing all the heroic aspects of Aeneas’ story, Shaw effectively satirizes it and its predilection for romanticizing war and worshipping heroes.

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