Was Shaw at all clear on the theme of war?Shaw in Arms and the Man created two soldiers , one hollow and showy like Sergius and the other efficient and professional like Bluntschli.If his purpose...

Was Shaw at all clear on the theme of war?

Shaw in Arms and the Man created two soldiers , one hollow and showy like Sergius and the other efficient and professional like Bluntschli.If his purpose is to satirise war, why did he glorify the character of Bluntschli who spoke of fighing professionally? Professionalism in war is better than idealism in war?

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MaudlinStreet | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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I believe Shaw is quite clear on his ideas about war. I disagree with the interpretation of Bluntschli as glorified. After all, he isn't a model soldier, careful and attentive to duty-he carries chocolate instead of cartridges and deserts his battalion. On the contrary, I think many will identify him as the agent of realism in the play. But ironically enough, towards the end of the play he is forced to acknowledge—perhaps as a matter of habitual slip, his “incurably romantic disposition”. However, this should not be confused with those of Raina or Sergius, for, while in Bluntschli’s case the romantic tendencies are innate and, therefore, necessary in the process of Creative Evolution, in the cases of Raina and Sergius those are partly self-imposed and partly imposed by their education. In other words, Bluntschli opposes the principles of romanticism with his creative brand of romanticism. Thus, he becomes a balance between realism and romanticism.

I suppose one could see his realism as glorifying professionalism, but lack of showiness seems to counteract the idea of service to a higher power. His fatigue, inability and ignorance provide entertainment to the audience, while also underscoring the sufferings, fatigue and tortures a soldier has to undergo in real situation. Quite contrary to the feudal glorification of a soldier’s job as an orderly one of service of higher kind, Bluntschli lets himself into a loose delirium created by fatigue and accelerated by suddenly found refuge.

Also, it's important to remember that he and Sergius should not be considered two halves of the same coin. In fact, Bluntschli's importance in the play is as a representation of the follies of class distinction, rather than the folly of glorifying war. Bertolt Brecht, in his 1959 article “Ovation for Show” in Modern Drama, wrote that Shaw insisted “on the prerogative of every man to act decently, logically, and with a sense of humor” and that a person was obligated to behave this way “even in the face of opposition.” Apparently, Shaw gave this attribute to Bluntschli.

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