G. B. Shaw's play "Arms and The Man": Compare and Contrast: Character of Sergius and Bluntschli


The characters in Shaw's play Arms and The Man are really arranged in parallel to highlight their distinctive features. The central theme of the play is the different attitudes to war and love. While some of the characters are rallying for romantic, sentimental notions, some are pragmatic and anti- romantic. In the true sense of the term Sergius and Bluntschli are studies in contrast and they constitute the central pair of the plot. They are both soldiers and lovers but their attitudes are pales apart. While Sergius is a self - conscious egotist and a dreamer of dreams, Bluntschli is a plain prudent man of the world with a strong common sense. While Sergius regards himself as a hero of romance and bears a romantic attitude to love and war, Bluntschli is replete with practical intelligence and has contempt for romantic poses and idealistic views of things like war, heroism, love and marriage.




Sergius is basically a self - conceited victorious hero who prides after his own achievement. Essentially he is a Byronic hero and opera lover who cannot give a sense direction to his own life without being romantic. He wins the battle but unprofessionally. He loves but from his heart but on the false notion of ' higher love.' Bluntschli is unfailingly critical of Sergius heroism and mocks it as mere Quixotic and asserts that his heroism was suicidal since his success was due to the accidental fact that the Serbs had no ammunition to fight him. Again Sergius is narrow and hide - bound in his outlook that always moves within a fixed groove of thought and action. His reactions to certain circumstances are almost stereotyped and mechanical. He does not even serve as a contrast to the brilliant captain Bluntschli. He shows himself a poor figure and often makes himself ridiculous by his side. He is vulgarized by his amorous intrigue with a servant - girl. A fool by nature, he is ' a soldier and lover by accident’.

Captain Bluntschli is, on the other hand, broad - minded and liberal in outlook and knows how to deal with a situation according to the exigency of circumstance. The Swiss officer is a practical soldier and a professional. He runs the risk of being killed in the battlefield when he fights, but he likes to save his life, if he can. He is brave but he has no bravado. He is no Don Quixote, an extravagant romantic hero. He is fully conscious of the dreadful realities of war. Though a soldier by profession, he is a man like any other man. He confronts Raina's illusions of war and heroism with facts and practical common sense. Serious is no less educated from him.

In creating Sergius, the motive of Shaw is creating a caricature. He makes him absurd in order to make him ultimately ludicrous. Shaw's aim is to satirize the romantic hero. In doing so he follows the technique laid down by Hudibras. The pompons manner, the mechanical mannerism, the unashamed hypocrisy, the Byronic poses are as grotesque as to raise our laughter. Bluntschli is the very foil to Sergius by his practical wisdom and to earth notions. Through the mouth of the ' chocolate cream soldier ' Shaw gives expression to his own heresies about the glories of warfare and higher love.

Alick West says that the difference between Sergius and Bluntschli is political. Bluntschli represents the practical Fabian whereas Sergius embodies the sentimental romanticism of the bourgeois ' revolutionary ' Bluntschli all though preaching anti - romantic views romantically succumbs to the fascination of Raina. On the other hand, Sergius professing and glorifying all romantic nonsense accepts the charms of Louka, the maid servant - the real love in preference to higher love. The commercially - minded Bluntschli cannot get rid of the prejudices of his class. But Sergius' romanticism enables him to take a leap in the dark. He accepts Louka with the same swagger as he accepted the challenge in the battle of Slivintza. Sergius is at the mercy of his emotions. Bluntschli is the cool calculating man of affairs. After all is said and done, everyone exclaims about him - “O what a man, Is he a man?"  

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