Character of Bluntchli in G.B. Shaw’s "Arms and The Man"



The son of a rich hotel-keeper and a professional soldier serving in the Serbian Army, Captain Bluntschli is the hero of G.B. Shaw’s plays Arms and The Man. A perfect man with a charming personality, Captain Bluntschli strikes a balance between two opposite elements in human nature. On the one hand he is prosaic, matter of fact, cool and calculating with a practical common sense and never-failing presence of mind, having a quick and almost mechanical capacity for action. On the other hand he is reckless adventurous and sentimental with an incurably romantic disposition. But these two elements, though they are contradictory to each other, are found in him combined in a perfect poise. Instead of being contradictory they have rather become complementary to each other. Nevertheless, he has come weak points in his character. He is lacking in imagination and eloquence. He is not a splendid talker though he is quick at repartee and possesses a keen sense of humour.




Captain Bluntschli first appears in the play as a vanquished soldier running away for life. Desperate through fear and exhaustion, his sole motive is self-preservation. He acts with great practical efficiency and prefect self-confidence. He succeeds admirably. He rouses Raina’s pity and persuades her to save his life even by telling a life. Being fairly out of danger, he becomes easy, natural and courteous in his manners. He behaves with Raina like a perfect gentleman.

Bluntschli is a through realistic and has no illusion for anything. So he has developed a cynical contempt for superfluous attitudes and sentiments. He confronts Raina’s illusions of war and heroism with facts and practical common sense. He makes her indignant by revealing to her the secret of success of her lover and ideal hero. However, he is finally able to explode her romantic notions of war and heroism and rouse her pity and sympathy by his plain speech, blunt manners and anti-romantic viewers. And before he leaves the house he has already become Raina’s Chocolete cream soldier and her ‘poor darling’ to merit even a souvenir from her.

The hard core realist and veteran soldier, Bluntschli again comes back to Major Petkoff’s house ostensibly to return the coat with which he was sent away as a refugee but really to have another look at Raina. Bluntschli shows himself a practical man of business by helping Major Petkoff dispose of some puzzling military affairs. But what he does best is to dismantle the make-believe-word of romantic in Raina. He displays his worldly wisdom into human nature by helping Raina discover her real self and get of her romantic illusions of love and marriage. First he plays the mediator in the quarrel between Raina and Sergius. He makes an earnest effort for reconciliation between the quarreling lovers.  

But when circumstances prevent it and they finally break off their engagement, he offers himself as a suitor for Raina’s hand. He does this since he is already convinced that Raina loves him. His union with Raina under the circumstances it comes off, illustrates his incurably romantic disposition. But romance, in his case, is not sentimental. It is clear sighted logical romance.

Shaw’s principal object in Arms and The Man is to expose the utter hollowness of romantic illusions about war and marriage and to hold up to ridicule the inherent absurdity which lies in these age-old human institutions. But, besides this, the play seems to contain a veiled statement of Shaw’s idea of the evolution of the ‘superman’ which dominated his imagination all through his life and which he elaborated so nicely and explicitly in a later play. Captain Bluntschli may be taken as the proto type of the superman whose evolution was an article of faith with Shaw as the inevitable destiny of man.

In order to state his views explicitly, the problem playwright sometimes introduces to raisonneur, who moves through the plot as a philosophic to speculative, and acts as another’s spokesman or accredited representative. The raisonneur generally has an air of superior wisdom, and his utterances has special weight or authority. Bluntschli in Arms and The Man acts as raisonneur; who being the spokesman of the author criticizes the romantic ideals of war and love.

Ardhendu De