Arms and the Man | Study Guide

George Bernard Shaw

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Arms and the Man | Act 2, Section 2 | Summary



Sergius asks Louka if she is familiar with "higher love," saying it is a very tiring thing to practice. He says he is many different people, depending who he is with. There are about a half-dozen Sergiuses. He flirts with Louka, who warns Raina will be spying on him but that Raina has also flirted with someone else. Louka says she's heard the man and Raina talking and knows that, if the man returns, Raina will marry him. She says, "I know the difference between the sort of manner you and she put on before one another and the real manner."

Sergius gets angry and grasps Louka's arm. He scolds her for betraying her mistress and having the soul of a servant. She says he can hurt her with his tongue as well as his hands. She says that Raina is a liar, and she is worth six of Raina. Sergius apologizes for hurting her. She says that won't do, and he offers her money. She says no, she wants her hurt made well. He asks how, and she shows him her bruised arm, which she wants him to kiss. He refuses, and she walks away, injured. Raina returns, joking about whether Sergius has been flirting with Louka.

Catherine enters and tells Sergius that Petkoff won't listen to her ideas about his three regiments, and Sergius should speak to him. Raina makes him promise to hurry. After Sergius leaves, Catherine says she's upset that the man told the story of their keeping him there. Petkoff asked for his coat as soon as he came home. Raina expresses anger but in affectionate terms, saying if he was here, she'd cram him with chocolates so he couldn't speak. She asks Raina how long the man was there before Raina summoned Catherine. Raina says she doesn't remember, and Catherine warns if Sergius finds out, he will break off his engagement with Raina. Raina says she wishes her mother could marry Sergius, instead of her. She, Raina, always wants to shock Sergius because he is so proper and stuffy. She wishes he would find out.

Raina leaves, and Louka comes in, saying there is a Serbian soldier, Captain Bluntschli, there to see the lady of the house. Catherine realizes this is the same soldier they harbored, there to return the coat. Catherine tells Louka to let him in, be sure to close the library door, and bring his bag (which contains the coat) to her.

Bluntschli—the script identifies him thus, whereas previously he was identified only as the man—enters. Catherine warns there will be horrible consequences if her husband finds out he was there since he still has a terrible animosity toward the enemy. He should leave the coat and sneak out the back. She'll have his bag sent to him. As Bluntschli is writing his address so she can send the bag, Petkoff and Sergius come in. They immediately recognize Bluntschli and greet him warmly, belying Catherine's words. They say he should have been brought to the library and ask his advice on the military matter they were considering. As they are taking him to another room to discuss it, Raina enters. Seeing Bluntschli, who is not nearly the imposing figure that Sergius is, she exclaims, "Oh, the chocolate cream soldier!"

Raina tries to cover up this error by saying that she made a chocolate cream soldier ornament for a pudding she was making, but Nicola destroyed it. She didn't mean that Bluntschli was a chocolate cream soldier. Flirtatiously, he says that he did think she meant that. Petkoff remarks that it is strange that Raina was cooking at all and wonders whether Nicola has become clumsy because he is drinking. This suspicion seems to be confirmed a moment later, when Nicola brings out Bluntschli's bag. Catherine covers up having requested the bag by making it seem like it was Nicola's mistake. The servant takes the bag away again, obedient but obviously annoyed.

Petkoff says that Bluntschli should stay with them while he's in town. Raina and Sergius agree he should. Bluntschli, knowing Catherine wouldn't want him to, refuses, but Petkoff urges her to tell her it's okay. She does, and Bluntschli agrees to stay. As the curtain goes down, Catherine makes a "gesture of despair."


When Louka tells Sergius she knows the different between his manner with Raina and "the real manner," she is talking about love. She could tell that the man and Raina are really talking to one another and in love. In contrast, Raina and Sergius just act the way they think they're supposed to when they're in love. This is what Sergius is referring to when he talks about "higher love" and how tiring it is. He means it's tiring never to be allowed to be a real person with normal emotions and normal failings. Rather, he has to live his life as the valiant soldier in Raina's portrait and subscribe to only an ideal of love rather than genuine feelings. Were Sergius and Raina to have gotten married, it is entirely likely they would end up like Raina's parents.

The bruise on Louka's arm is the result of a show of honest emotion. When Louka asks Sergius to kiss it away, his response is also passionate. His desire is clear, but he is also committed to fidelity. Flirtation is acceptable, but to go further would break the code of behavior he has chosen to live by. Clearly, Sergius is a gentleman through and through—at least with Raina. He would never dream of harming her and is shocked that his feelings for Louka have resulted in his harming her. Shaw contrasts the fake love of Raina and Sergius with the real, more passionate love between Louka and Sergius. However, the raising of bruises goes too far. Somewhere between the blatantly artificial conduct between Raina and Sergius and that sort of conduct is the ideal. This may be the respectful discussion between Raina and Bluntschli.

The honesty between Louka and Sergius (and between Raina and Bluntschli) reflect Shaw's socialist views. Shaw was deeply involved in the Fabian socialist movement, a group that aimed to transform British society by infiltrating socialist ideals into the country's intellectual and political life. By writing a play showing love that transcends class boundaries, Shaw was attempting to do that. He did not believe that class should be a barrier to marriage or an argument for it.

Catherine is distressed when Bluntschli shows up in part because she worries that her husband is likely to find out about their escapade in November. However, she may also suspect Raina's passionate feelings for Bluntschli—feelings that are stronger than those she has for her heroic Sergius. Catherine wants Raina to marry Sergius to maintain the status quo. Marrying Sergius can help Raina maintain or even better her social position, which is very important to Catherine. If Raina falls in love with Bluntschli and if Sergius finds out about it, that will be the end of an advantageous match. This is more important, in Catherine's eyes, than real love. Based on her relationship with her husband, it is likely that Catherine made and has remained in a similar match herself. In this respect, the shabbiness of their home at the expense of their clothes reflects their attitude on marriage relations.

One may wonder why Bluntschli returned at all. It has been four months since he was in the Petkoffs' house, and he's been at war. Returning the coat seems of low importance. What's more, returning it is more likely to expose the Petkoff women's hiding him than if the coat had simply gone missing. Therefore, the audience can presume Bluntschli was willing to risk coming back because he wanted to see Raina again.

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