Arms and the Man Study Guide

Arms and the Man Study Guide

Original title:
Arms and the Man

“Arms and the Man” is a jovial comedy by George Bernard Shaw that portrays such serious issues as war, unrequited love and scandal so lightheartedly that we can’t help laughing. The clever usage of double entendre jokes only enhances this atmosphere. The real Serbo-Bulgarian war turns into a story told by the veterans to boast in the company of fellow soldiers: funny and with happy ending.

The story of an enemy soldier in the private room of a noble lady turns into the romantic and pure adventure with noble mercenaries, understanding officers from the other side of the frontline, unexpected camaraderie and the maids who fulfill the dream to become Cinderella. Even the affectionate nickname “chocolate soldier”, that can be portrayed as shame and disgrace (and is completely wrongly used that way in modern military!) is incredibly sweet and romantic in the setting of the play. The soldier here has no need to be a manly man and the ideal of propaganda, but can allow himself to be a real person, who can love, care and get himself into the funny situations - still staying a decent and noble man. The real war is put aside and shown as something so ridiculous in comparison to the real love, friendship, respect and admiration.

Despite it is a comedy, “Arms and the Man” was greeted with awe as one of the best pacifistic works of Bernard Shaw. Not only it became a huge commercial success for him, it also was praised as a very deep and philosophic play that presents the ideas of the author lively and brilliantly, without long dull aesops and heavy moral lessons. The triumph of Life over the war is inevitable and love and happiness means much more for the humanity - this is the very idea that we can see in the play and feel it while laughing and smiling happily when everything ends well.

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