The arbitrary nature of social status

The social station of the characters in the play is one of the dynamics that becomes most pronounced by its end. Louka wants to be more than a servant, whereas Nicola seems content to remain one. Bluntschli appears to be middle class, but reveals later that he is far, far wealthier than the noble Petkoffs. Petkoff and Catherine want Raina to reinforce the family’s position however she can, either by marrying the ostensibly bravest man in Bulgaria, Sergius, or by adding greatly to the family’s coffers by joining with Bluntschli.

As in any marriage narrative of the nineteenth century, romantic love might be a part of the marriage calculation, as it certainly didn’t hurt to love one’s partner. But that is far from the point of marriage in this time period. Characters want to unite noble families and improve financial situations. What romantic love tends to do in these situations, then, is cut across and destabilize what might be the otherwise orderly transfer of money between families.