A Critical Analysis Of The Play “Arms And The Man” By George Bernard Shaw

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INTRODUCTION

This work brings us to the study of comedy in a text. We have decided to use George Bernard Shaw’s play because he is one of the greatest playwrights of the modern period. His themes have timeless relevance. This play is considered unique because of the way the playwright trivialized war which is a very serious issue.

Plot

The play has a straight forward and simple plot that starts from the beginning and moves swiftly to the end. It has no flashback or subplots. The plot is simply divided into three acts. The events of the play span about five months; it begins in November 1885 and ends in MarchShaw uses dates and known towns and countries to establish the historical mode of the play.

As we know, the structuring of events in sequence is a plot. The play begins with Raina’s reveries, of how Sergius, led a victorious cavalry charge against the enemy. Meanwhile, the Serbian forces who were defeated are on the run chased by the Bulgarians. One of the fugitives, Captain Bluntschli, runs into Raina’s bedroom and she protects him when the search party came in.

Bluntschli prefers chocolate to bullets when he is at the war front. He tells Raina that Sergius and his cavalry charge succeeded because someone forgot to supply ammunition to the Serbs at the appropriate time. The captain’s life is saved as he leaves in disguise, wearing Major Petkoff’s coat. (This revelation was made towards the end of the play, when Bluntschli returns the coat to Raina and her mother).

The war ends, Raina’s father, Major Petkoff, returns home with Sergius, the hero, to recount the story of a certain Swiss officer who impeded them at the exchange of prisoners. This officer, according to them, escaped death by chance as a certain girl and her mother protected him. Meanwhile, contrary to expectations, Sergius is attracted to Raina’s maid, Louka. Unexpectedly, Captain Bluntschli arrives to return the coat which Raina and her mother lent him.

He is the Swiss Officer talked about, so the men give him a rousing welcome while the women pretend that they do not know him. However, he is persuaded to stay for lunch. After the lunch, he helps Serguis and Petkoff in their arrangement to demobIlise the military formation with ease. Raina who, right from the first day she met Bluntschli, had romantic ideas about him to the extent of sending her a picture and calls him her chocolate cream soldiers, develops stronger feelings towards him.

However, she still feels obliged to go on with Sergius. On the other hand, Louka who has fallen in love with Serguis, informs him that Raina is in love with Bluntschli. Sergius accuses Raina of making love to Bluntschli while Raina accuses him of doing same to Louka. The crisis is resolved as Bluntschli proposes to marry Raina. Her parents are happy. Sergius accepts to marry Louka.

Themes of the Play

The Futility of War

The play is a satire on war. It is a deflation of military glory and a brazen onslaught on falsehood, and pretence. It is an exposition of all military spurious claims of bravery and heroism. In short, Shaw is saying in the play that warfare is criminal and bad and should not be seen as a mark of progress, achievement or of national greatness. This explains why a soldier who should be trigger – happy, is content with and settles for his chocolate in a serious life-and-death situation which the war represents.

Love and Marriage

The second theme of the play is marriage. Shaw is of the view that marriage is a union between a man and a woman which should be built on concrete traits of their character and not on illusions and fantasies. He fells that marriage is good and should be encouraged. The primary decision of Raina to marry Sergius is based on the illusion that Sergius is a war hero whom she could be proud of anytime, and anywhere.

Raina declares that her fiancé Sergius, is “just as splendid and noble as he looks, that the world is really a glorious world for women who can see its glory and men who can act its romance”. The same fantasy leads her to take Sergius’ portrait and address it while on her bed in the night and say, “my hero, my hero”. The same emotion governs her parent’s choice of partner in marriage for her. This is simply because they discovered that Bluntschli inherited a lot of wealth from his late father.

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