The play Arms and the Man bears the sub-title "an anti-romantic comedy". How does Shaw present the anti-romantic element in the play?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The anti-romantic element is presented in two ways, through dialogue and through situational irony.

The character Raina at first believes in the romantic view of war and in her fantasies embodies this concept in the person of Sergius, with whom she is infatuated. Her visions of war and love are both based in art and literature and grounded in outward appearance. Captain Bluntschli disabuses her of the romantic concept of a cavalry charge, describing it as simply an unprofessional form of idiocy. Gradually, Raina abandons her romantic views and is convinced that a more pragmatic vision is superior and replaces her romantic infatuation with Sergius with a more solid love for her "chocolate cream soldier."

Sergius also functions in an anti-romantic manner. In the opening of the play, he is portrayed as a romantic hero, handsome and brave. Captain Bluntschli shows that most of this posturing is simply absurd and gradually exposes Sergius and Major Petkoff as unskilled amateurs in the art of war. In romance, Sergius idealizes Raina and plays a romantic role, but gradually, as the play progresses, we realize that he is not really the Byronic hero he appears to be and is far happier relaxing in the less romantic but more grounded relationship with Louka. 

Nicola is perhaps the most anti-romantic figure in the play, especially in the way he cheerfully gives up Louka as a romantic interest, stating that she'd actually be more valuable to him as a customer than as a wife. 

 

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Arms and the Man

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