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Arms and the Man

Key Facts

Main ideas Key Facts

full title · Arms and the Man

autho · r George Bernard Shaw

type of work ·  Play

genre ·  Comedy of manners; social satire

language ·  English

time and place written ·  London; 1893

date of first performance ·  1894 (London)

publisher ·  N/A; first performed in London

narrator  · Play does not have a narrator, but there are scene descriptions and stage in addition to the dialogue.

point of view ·  The play has no “point of view” as in fiction. The audience sees all characters equally and externally.

tone  · Social critique

tense ·  Present

setting (time) ·  1885-6

setting (place) ·  Bulgaria; the Petkoff estate

protagonist  · Raina

major conflict ·  Catherine and Raina worry that Sergius and Petkoff will realize that they harbored Bluntschli in their home in secret during the war.

rising action ·  Bluntschli arrives back at the Petkoff estate in Act Two, to return Petkoff’s coat.

climax  · Bluntschli reveals his love for Raina, Raina her love for Bluntschli; and Louka and Sergius admit to their affair.

falling action ·  Bluntschli makes a formal offer of marriage to Raina, who accepts, and Sergius offers marriage to Louka, who also accepts (after goading him into doing it).

themes ·  Disillusionment with war; the complexity of romantic love; the arbitrary nature of social status

motifs ·  Ill-timed entry; romantic affairs; the soul of a servant

symbols ·  Petkoff’s coat; chocolate creams; the library

foreshadowing ·  In Act Two, Sergius and Petkoff discuss hearing a story about a man whom Bulgarian noblewomen hid in their own home, with their husbands and families away at war. Louka states that she knows secrets about the Petkoffs, and also will do whatever she can to elevate her social status.