Quote 4

“My husband has just returned, with my future son-in-law; and they know nothing. If they did, the consequences would be terrible. You are a foreigner: you do not feel our national animosities as we do.”

Catherine says this to Bluntschli in Act Two. She wants to make sure that her behavior with Raina, in helping Bluntschli to avoid detection by the Bulgarians, will not upset her carefully orchestrated plans. While Louka wishes to improve her life by no longer being a servant, Catherine wants to maintain the family’s social advantages by ensuring that Raina marries a worthy man. Catherine plays up the idea, which recurs in the work, that there is something special about being a Bulgarian. She thinks Bulgaria it is a country poised between modernity and tradition. In Bulgaria, nobility and pride matter, whereas, as Catherine assumes for Bluntschli, being a Swiss means being entirely given over to markets and money-making.

Ironically, the money that Bluntschli acquires from exactly these means is well worth Catherine’s consideration by the end of the play, when she realizes that Bluntschli’s fortune far exceeds the Petkoffs’. Catherine protects the family’s name, but understands that that name must sit atop a pile of money. Bluntschli, in addition to his mixture of charm and even-headedness, has a good amount of money to spare. It is useful to note that Bluntschli’s Swiss heritage makes him “neutral” in every sense. He is neutral in being a mercenary in war. But he is also a man from a country that itself has tried hard to avoid alliances with other countries over the centuries, and to preserve its position as a part of Europe cut off from some of the bloodier conflicts that have wracked the continent. In the same way, Bluntschli is “neutral” to conflicts as much as is possible, avoiding both the Bulgarians who track him down, and fleeing from the Serbs with whom he fought in their battle with Sergius’s men.