Arms and the Man Questions and Answers
by George Bernard Shaw

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How does George Bernard Shaw use the characters in his play Arms and the Man to voice his opinion on various matters?

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George Bernard Shaw was a well-known satirist whose work oft-times ridiculed the pretentiousness of the upper classes. Arms and the Man is a case in point. Arms and the Man not only satirizes the snobbishness and superficial nature of society's elite, but also points an accusing finger at the futility and waste of war. In his play Major Barbara, Shaw indicts not just those who cause wars, but those who profit from them as well. Arms and the Man tells the somewhat convoluted story (many successful satires involve complicated storylines, including complex webs of interacting characters) of a wealthy Bulgarian family. The family's patriarch is an officer in that nation's army, and his daughter, Raina, conceals in her bedroom a Swiss soldier fighting in the Serbian army. Meanwhile, Raina's fiancé, Sergius, is also an officer in the Bulgarian army and serves in the same regiment as Raina's father. Sergius attempts to cheat on Raina with the family's maid, Louka, who displays her own sense of elitism by denying the amorous attentions of another servant, believing the latter to be beneath her. That servant, Nicola, is exceedingly deferential to his employers, accepting his "inferior" status in society--a notion summarily rejected by the younger, more rebellious Louka. Note, for instance, Nicola's warning to the young, beautiful servant whose attention he hopes to attract:

Be warned in time, Louka: mend your manners.
I know the mistress. She is so grand that she never
dreams that any servant could dare to be disrespectful to
her.

This type of class-struggle is the overriding theme of...

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