Thursday, October 14, 2010

Arms and the Man-2

Shaw was already a celebrity arts critic and socialist lecturer when he wrote Arms and the Man in 1894. One of Shaw’s earliest attempts at writing for the theatre, it was also his first commercial success as a playwright. Although it played for only one season at an avant-garde theatre, thanks to the financial backing of a friend, it was later produced in America in 1895. Accustomed to the melodramas of the age, however, even sophisticated audiences often did not discern the serious purpose of Shaw’s play. Thus, Shaw considered it a failure.
True success did not come until 1898, when Arms and the Man was published as one of the “pleasant” plays in Shaw’s collection called Plays: Pleasant and Unpleasant, and it subsequently gained popularity as a written work. Included in this collection of plays are lengthy explanatory prefaces, which note significant issues in the plays and which have been invaluable to critics. In place of brief stage directions, Shaw’s plays also included lengthy instructions and descriptions. Another unique aspect of Arms and the Man was its use of a woman as the central character.
Set during the four-month-long Serbo-Bulgarian War that occurred between November 1885 and March 1886, this play is a satire on the foolishness of glorifying something so terrible as war, as well as a satire on the foolishness of basing your affections on idealistic notions of love. These themes brought reality and a timeless lesson to the comic stage. Consequently, once Shaw’s genius was recognized, Arms and the Man became one of Shaw’s most popular plays and has remained a classic ever since.
Arms and the Man Summary
It is November 1885, during the Serbo-Bulgarian War. Raina Petkoff, a young Bulgarian woman, is in her bedchamber when her mother, Catherine, enters and announces there has been a battle close by and that Raina’s fiancé, Major Sergius Saranoff, was the hero of a cavalry charge. The women rejoice that Sergius has proven to be as heroic as they expected, but they soon turn to securing the house because of fighting in the streets. Nonetheless, a Serbian officer gains entry through Raina’s shutters. Raina decides to hide him and she denies having seen anyone when she is questioned by a Russian officer who is hunting for a man seen climbing the water pipe to Raina’s balcony. Raina covers well, and the Russian leaves without noticing the pistol on Raina’s bed.
When Raina hands the gun to the Serbian after the Russian leaves, the Serbian admits that the gun is not loaded because he carries chocolates in his cartridge belt instead of ammunition. He explains that he is a Swiss mercenary fighting for the Serbs because it is his profession to be a soldier and the Serbian war was close by. He adds that old, experienced soldiers carry food while only the young soldiers carry weapons. Shocked by this attitude, Raina criticizes him for being a poor soldier. He counters by describing what makes a real fool, not knowing that his version of the day’s cavalry charge makes fun of her betrothed. She is incensed but agrees to let him stay once he impresses upon her the danger of going back out into the street. She tries to impress him with her family’s wealth and position, saying that they have the nobility to give refuge to an enemy. He pledges her safety and advises her to tell her mother about his presence, to keep matters proper. While she is gone, he falls into a deep sleep on her bed and he cannot be roused by a shocked Catherine. Raina takes pity on him and asks that they let him sleep.
Raina Petkoff
Raina, the heroine of the play, is the only child of Major Petkoff and Catherine Petkoff. She is a "romantic" and had romantic notions of love and war.
Catherine Petkoff
Catherine Petkoff, Raina's mother, is a middle-aged affected woman, who wishes to pass off as a Viennese lady. She is "imperiously energetic" and good-looking.
Louka, a servant girl in the Petkoff household, is proud and looks down on servility. She is ambitious and wishes to rise in life. Nicola wishes to marry her but she has other plans.

Major Petkoff
Major Petkoff has acquired his position in the army more because of his wealth than his ability. In military strategy he takes help from Bluntschli but believes that he himself has made all the plans. He is, however a good father and husband.
Sergius is handsome, as a romantic hero ought to be, has a good position in the army and supposed to be brave. He is supposed to be in love with Raina but flirts with Louka.

Bluntschli is a Swiss professional soldier. He believes that it is better to be armed with chocolates than with ammunition on the battlefield. In contrast to Sergius "he is of middling stature and undistinguished appearance". He is energetic and carries himself like a soldier.
Nicola is an old servant of the family. He displays a lot of discretion in dealing with the members of the family as well as their guests. He is fond of Louka who disapproves of his servility.
The conflict in "Arms and the Man" is between opposing beliefs and ideas.
Raina is the protagonist. She has romantic notions about war and love.
In a way, Bluntschli could be considered the antagonist since he presents a realistic picture of war. Louka is the other antagonist who makes Raina and Sergius aware of the practical side of love.
Bluntschli's arrival with the coat is the climax. At that point the play gets most complicated.
The outcome is a happy one. Raina marries Bluntschli and Louka secures Sergius. Overall, the main characters come down to the practical realities of life.

The play has two major Themes: war and marriage. Romantic illusion about war lead to disasters, in the same way romantic notions of love and marriage lead to unhappy marriages.
A minor theme is the relationship between the upper and lower classes as represented by the Petkoffs and their servants Nicola and Louka. Shaw upheld social equality.
Pleasant. The play was published together with the others in "Plays Pleasant".
In a war between Bulgaria and Serbia, the Serbian soldiers are fleeing. A Serbian soldier surprises Raina, the heroine, by entering her bedroom for shelter. The Serbian officer is a Swiss mercenary soldier fighting on the Serbian side, his name is Captain Bluntschli. Raina Petkoff had been dreaming of her fiancé Sergius; about how valiantly he had led the Bulgarians to victory. Bluntschli is a soldier who prefers a supply of chocolates to bullets when he goes to the front. He gives an account to Raina about the Bulgarian victory, which according to him, was a fluke as someone had forgotten to supply the Serbian army with ammunition. Her romantic notion about soldiers receives a shock when he tells her he is afraid and unwilling to die. However, when the pursuers enter the house, she hides Bluntschli successfully. Only Louka, the maidservant notices the pistol and knows that the fugitive is hiding in the room.
Four months later, after the war is over, Major Petkoff and Sergius get a warm welcome from Mrs. Petkoff and Raina. The two men talk about a young Swiss officer who had impressed them with his practical approach to the exchange of soldiers. Louka and Nicola discuss Raina's encounter with the Swiss soldier and Nicola advises her not to talk about it. Sergius is attracted to Louka and when alone, flirts with her. The men have also heard stories about the Swiss soldier's escape and how a young girl had given him shelter. They do not know that the incident had taken place in Major Petkoff's own house. While the two men retire to the library, Captain Bluntschli arrives to return the coat Major Petkoff and Raina had lent him. The two women want him to go away and pretend not to know him when Major Petkoff and Sergius greet him warmly. The men persuade him to stay back for lunch.
After lunch, Bluntschli helps Major Petkoff and Sergius to make arrangements for the transport of troops. Major Petkoff asks for his coat and Raina is apprehensive that he may discover the photograph, which she had put in the pocket for her "Chocolate Cream Soldier." Sergius learns the true identity of the "Chocolate Cream Soldier" and challenges Bluntschli to a duel which Raina interrupts and expresses her real feelings for Bluntschli. Louka succeeds in securing Sergius for herself and Major Petkoff and his wife give their consent to Bluntschli to marry Raina.
Author Information
George Bernard Shaw was born in Dublin on July 26, 1856. He was the youngest of three children, his older siblings were girls. His parents were George Carr Shaw and Lucinda Elizabeth Shaw. His father came from a good family but was the youngest son of his parents, and therefore, inherited nothing except aristocratic habits. He was a drunkard and was unable to support his family adequately. His mother was a talented singer. Her music teacher was George J.V. Lee.
With a mother, too aloof, and a drunkard father, the children grew up in a lax atmosphere. They were left to themselves without any guidance and without any demand for obedience. The parents did not earn much reverence from Bernard. From his father he inherited a sense of humor and from his mother, imagination. After being tutored at home by a governess and then an uncle, Bernard Shaw went to the Dublin Wesleyan connexional school. In 1869 he was transferred to the Central Model Boys' school in Dublin. The last two years of his school life were spent at the Dublin English Scientific and Commercial Day School, which he left in 1871. Academically, he was a failure and later described the learning process as "a ceremony of disillusion". However, he gained something -- he became a voracious reader.
Before he had finished school, his mother, unable to cope with her husband, moved with her family to Lee's house in 1868. During the next four years, Shaw was surrounded by musical people, rehearsals and performances, which gave him a good background and sharpened his musical sensibility.
Later on his father became a teetotaler, yet the family broke up. Mrs. Shaw, with her daughters, moved to London to make a career in music. Shaw remained in Dublin and for four years, till he was twenty, he worked as a clerk in a firm of land agents. He also studied classical music in this period.
In 1876, he joined his mother in London. For a period he spent his time visiting Hampton Court, the National gallery and the reading room of the British museum. All this while he wrote very regularly. "I bought supplies of white paper, demy size ........folded it in quarto; and condemned myself to fill five pages of it a day, rain or shine, dull or impressed." He followed this routine diligently. Thus in five years, from 1879 to 1885, he wrote five novels which were all rejected.

American political economist, who spoke on "Land Nationalism and the Single Tax." This happened in 1882. This experience made him read the works of Karl Marx. This interest in socialism was to influence his writing in future. His experience at the debating club had given him the confidence and he missed no opportunity to speak on socialism. However, as A.C. Ward points out : "his socialism was always secondary to his inborn individualism.......he liked to hear himself abused by communists as a Fascist and by Fascists as a Communist."

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