Arms and the Man | Study Guide

George Bernard Shaw

Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "Arms and the Man Study Guide." Course Hero. 28 June 2019. Web. 4 Oct. 2023. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2019, June 28). Arms and the Man Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved October 4, 2023, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2019)



Course Hero. "Arms and the Man Study Guide." June 28, 2019. Accessed October 4, 2023.


Course Hero, "Arms and the Man Study Guide," June 28, 2019, accessed October 4, 2023,

Arms and the Man | Act 3, Section 1 | Summary



Act 3 takes place the same day in the Petkoffs' library. This is the library Raina bragged about in Act 1. The stage directions describe the library as a single shelf of books in poor condition. At curtain, Bluntschli is writing very competently about the military matter at hand while Sergius gazes on enviously. Petkoff says he wants his coat, which he cannot find. Catherine says it's in the closet where it belongs, and Petkoff says it isn't. Catherine sends Nicola to get the coat. Petkoff bets her a piece of jewelry that it isn't there and enlists the other men to bet also. Bluntschli, knowing the whereabouts of the coat, refuses. Sergius bets his best charger, a horse ridden into battle, against an Arabian mare, a fancier horse, that Nicola will find the coat where it belongs. Nicola returns with the coat, which he says was hanging in the closet. Petkoff thinks he's hallucinating and reminds Sergius he didn't take his bet.

Bluntschli completes his work. He sends Sergius and Petkoff off to deliver the orders. Petkoff says Catherine should come with them, so Bluntschli and Raina are left alone.

Raina approaches Bluntschli, asking whether he told anyone about hiding in their house. He says he only told one person. Raina says that person told her father and Sergius. Fortunately, they don't know she and Catherine were the ladies involved. She says if Sergius knew, he would challenge Bluntschli to a duel and kill him. Bluntschli says, "Bless me! then don't tell him." She's angry he's being flippant and says he doesn't understand how hard it is for her to deceive Sergius. She wants to be perfect with him because their relationship is beautiful and noble. Also, she has only lied twice in her life. The first, which she should remember, was when she lied on Bluntschli's behalf about his not being there when the officer came looking for him.

Bluntschli says as a soldier, he is used to hearing people lie—and to having his life saved. Raina says this makes him incapable of gratitude. He asks if she likes gratitude. He says, "If pity is akin to love, gratitude is akin to the other thing." She says he doesn't respect women. He says he thinks two lies in an entire lifetime is too few. Two lies wouldn't last him a morning. He says, "When you get into that noble attitude and speak in that thrilling voice, I admire you; but I find it impossible to believe a single word you say."

Raina is overcome that he understands that she sometimes lies. She says he is the first man not to take her seriously, and he says he is the first man who has. She says she takes the noble attitude in front of everyone, implying it is an act. They all believe her. She says he must be disgusted, now that he's found her out. He says he isn't. He's another infatuated admirer.

Raina asks him about the picture of herself she left for him in the coat pocket. Bluntschli says he didn't know anything about it. It must still be there. Raina is appalled, since her father will find it, but Bluntschli says she can simply tell him he must have put it there herself. However, she wrote a note on it. He tells that, to keep it safe while he was at war, he pawned the coat. He suggests the pawnbroker may have cleaned out the pockets. Raina is appalled that he pawned the coat and says he isn't a gentleman. She wishes she'd never met him.

Louka, wearing a bracelet to cover the bruise on her arm, arrives with mail for Bluntschli. In it is news that his father has died. Bluntschli must leave immediately to take over the family business. Louka remarks that Bluntschli has no heart because he wasn't upset about his father's death. Raina says that's because he has been a soldier, but Louka counters that Sergius still has a heart. Raina leaves.

Nicola comes in. He and Louka discuss their upcoming marriage and differing philosophies about staying within their stations.


The library in which this act takes place is the one about which Raina bragged in Act 1. The audience now finds out it is nothing but a few books with coffee stains and broken spines. Raina bragged about the library to make her family sound rich and intellectual. However, she assumed the soldier would never see it. As with Raina's furs, the Petkoffs spend money on things that will make them look good and skimp on things people won't see, such as bedroom furniture or the library. They value style over substance. That's why Catherine is so eager to have Raina marry the handsome and seemingly heroic Sergius. However, in the play Raina is getting a lesson in substance.

Shaw takes great pains to show Bluntschli's competence at drafting the military orders, an endeavor at which both Sergius and Petkoff have failed. This is in part due to Shaw's socialist views. As a member of the Fabian Society, Shaw did not believe that being a member of the upper class is a guarantee of intellect or merit. In fact, being a member of the upper class is likely to prevent people from fulfilling their potential. This is clear from the portrayal of Raina. While Bluntschli doesn't come from such a noble or (to the viewer's/reader's knowledge) learned family, he is actually more capable than these upper-class men. Sergius says of him, "He finds out what to do; draws up the orders; and I sign 'em. Division of labor." Sergius is well aware Bluntschli is more competent than he is.

Raina finds she can converse more freely with Bluntschli and be herself around him—something she cannot do with Sergius. With Sergius, she must put on a façade of being the perfect woman. She tells Bluntschli she's only lied twice in her entire life, but he is correct in saying that her entire personality is a lie. She lies by omission. She does not let the man she supposedly loves see who she really is. Nor does Sergius allow her to see his real self as evidenced by his comment to Louka about there being half a dozen Sergiuses.

Raina's mother, Catherine, offers an example of the type of life Raina can expect if she marries Sergius. Catherine is a pet who can be bought off with a piece of jewelry. Her husband doles out housekeeping money as if he is doing her a favor. She lies to her husband constantly—several times just in the course of the play. Yet Catherine, like Raina, would probably say she never lies.

Louka and Nicola, on the other hand, speak to each other in simple terms about practical matters. He tells her he has shown her how to act like a classy lady, a potential customer for his eventual business. But what he hasn't taught her is how to hide her feelings like a proper lady. Yet it is precisely her straight talking that makes her appealing to Sergius, who is tired of putting on an act all the time. If both Sergius and Raina dropped the act, they might be happy together. However, class expectations make this impossible.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about Arms and the Man? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!