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

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Louka

Louka is a maid in the Petkoff’s household. She is not contented with being a maid and hopes to get out of that situation. She is ambitious and  realizes this ambition of not remaining a maid for the rest of her life when she accepts the proposal to marry Sergius. Nicolas describes her as having “a soul above her station” (80)

She is proud, self-righteous and contemptuous of her employers. She feels that there is really nothing spectacular about nobility. Her contempt for them is as a result of the fact that she had seen or  known some of their illicit affairs. She also feels that she could use what she knew about them to blackmail them into not harming her. Hear her “l know some family secrets they wouldn’t care to have told me as young as l am. Let them dare quarrel with me” (36).

She is fearless, strong willed, impudent and vicious. She believes that the end justifies the means. She goes to any length to get what she wants even if it means to malign another person just like she did to Raina. She blackmailed Sergius into the marriage proposal he made to her. She is a gossip. It is true that Raina and Sergius do not really love each other, Louka’s gossip facilitated the break up and Sergius settled for her instead of Raina. When she was caught eavesdropping on Bluntschli, Sergius and Raina, she stood her ground and declared unabashedly, “my love was at stake. I am not ashamed” (77).

She is very courageous and is the only person who deflates Sergius arrogance by forcing him to apologise to her publicly.

Nicola

Nicola is a good servant who is obedient and loyal. He is ambitious in his own way, he hopes to open shop at Sofia and would still need his employer’s patronage. He therefore, does not want to lose that patronage by being disobedient. He is complacent and is contented to be used to avoid trouble in the household. For instance, he accepted spoiling the cake pudding in order to cover his mistress’ secret.

He is respectful, principled and faithful, he respects his superiors and does not interfere or intrude in their affairs or conversation like Louka does. Despite Louka’s insults, he remains faithful to her and tries to educate her on the realities of life. He does not talk about the family secrets of the Petkoffs. He is more experienced than Louka and realizes that if he fell out with the Petkoffs, they could make life miserable for him in the end. This explains his words to Louka: “You don’t know the power such high people have over you and me when we try to rise out of our poverty against them ”(36).

He has served the Petkoffs faithfully for ten years and is not prepared to jeopardize his benefits for any reason. He is a noble gentleman despite the fact that he is a servant. Bluntschli describes him as “the ablest man I’ve met in Bulgaria” ( 80).

Bluntschili

Bluntschli is a Swiss mercenary who fought on the side of the Serbs during the Serbian- Bulgarian war. He abandoned a comfortable life in his father’s business to become a mercenary. Though he claims that he carries chocolates instead of ammunition, he is a fine and competent soldier to the core.

He is very smart and practical. He makes the best use of every opportunity he gets; when he entered Raina’s bedroom, he used her cloak to prevent her from opening the door to call for help. However, on a second thought he gave it up, and made her believe that he will not surrender easily to the Bulgarian soldiers as he will not to allow them burst into”… this pretty room of yours and slaughter me here like a pig, for l’ ll fight like a demon… are you prepared to receive that sort of company in your present undress” (21).

He is an intelligent soldier who knows all the tactics, strategies and organisation of the army, soldering and war. He informs Raina of the military blunder which Sergius committed and maintained that in an ideal situation “he (Sergius) ought to be court-martialled”. He also realizes the futility of war. This explains why he fights it dispassionately. As a mercenary, he is not patriotic but is just concerned with his fees. No wonder, he carries chocolates instead of bullets.

He is humble, modest and adjusts easily to any situation. Those attributes are obvious during his second visit to the Petkoffs. He sensed the ladies’ confusion on seeing him and decides to play along with them. However, at the moment of decision when the picture was found, the practical and natural aspect of him took over, He shows his military efficiency and organizational skills in the way he handles the demobilization exercise for Major Petkoff and Sergius. As a humble and modest man, he does not brag about it, instead, he allows Sergius to append his signature and Petkoff to go and give the orders. So both of them take the glory for the work he actually did.

He is not a man of many words but believes that action speaks more. When Sergius challenges him to a duel, he does not ask for the reason for the fight but simply assures him that there “…shall be no mistake about the cartridges this time” ( 72). Also, when he realizes that Raina was free to marry him, he proposes immediately. Finally, he is truthful and asks Raina to be truthful and natural with him. He is also a good businessman for he does not allow marriage plans to disrupt the business he had at hand.

CONCLUSION

Arms and the Man presents to us the pretensions and foibles of the upper and noble class. It also shows that nobility does not guarantee intelligence. Shaw highlights this by making Louka, the maid more intelligent than her master and mistress. She uplifts her life as she outwits and makes fun of them.

You have seen in this article, in practical terms, how comedy is used to ridicule men in the society. It shows that while we laugh at the follies of characters like Catherine, Sergius and Raina, we try to realize and avoid such weaknesses in our lives.

 

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