When Raina finds out that Sergius led a successful charge, she lifts his portrait in the air, "like a priestess". She is not worshipping a romantic, or even sexual, love for Sergius. Rather, she is worshipping at the altar of her ideas of love. Though she yearns to break through the pretensions of their pairing, Raina believes her performances are justified by Sergius' victory. Now, her love is a war hero - a worthy object for her affections. But Sergius is merely a tool for her to express what she believes is the way she must behave. She loves the idea of Sergius, not the man.
A Handful of Peas (pg. 13)
Bluntschli compares a cavalry charge to "slinging a handful of peas against a window pane" - the first wave consists of the leader and one or two officers, and then the rest follow in a disorganized "lump". This description knocks Sergius down a few pegs by dispelling the notion of absolute bravery in the face of mortal danger. Bluntschli tells Raina that most injuries are from horses slamming into one another, and the leader must fight with his horse to keep moving to the front line. He also tells her that Sergius' enemies were defeated due to an ammunitions mistake and not a successful charge; the Bulgarians would have been mowed down if they faced an army with the right cartridges. So Sergius' stroke of luck is revealed to be dangerous incompetence masked by over-exuberant confidence.
Sergius as Don Quixote (pg. 14)
When Raina asks Bluntschli if he recognizes her beloved as the hero of the battlefield, he affirms Sergius' identity, but shatters her illusion of his bravery. In describing Sergius' efforts in the charge, Bluntschli uses several unflattering similies. He refers to Sergius as "an operatic tenor", and comments on his dashing looks. But his appearance belies an overblown sense of confidence and incompetence. The comparison Bluntschli makes to Don Quixote is particularly apt. Just as Quixote's ideals are shattered by reality, Sergius cuts a fine figure, but his skill as a soldier is nothing but sound and fury. Bluntschli reveals that his success was the result of dumb luck rather than acumen.
The Commercial Traveller (pg. 30)
Sergius complains that the Swiss soldier he encountered (Bluntschli) was like a "commercial traveller in uniform" - a salesman. But he also says the man was a true soldier. This passage reveals that Sergius now knows more about the realities of war. The pomp and circumstance is now gone from the profession, and he understands that the real soldiers are those who can wheel and deal for what is more necessary to victory. Though the Swiss brokered a shady deal, Sergius admires the man's pragmatism. Sergius is passed over for a promotion despite his heroic gesture, and comes to understand that the romance of war is an illusion.
Sergius' English Bull Terrier (pg. 58)
Louka asks Sergius if the poor men on the battlefield were as brave as the rich. Sergius waves away the question, explaining that the desire to kill is nothing special. He uses the example of his dog to explain the mind of a soldier. A dog can be vicious and attack, but will allow itself to be beaten by its owner. Likewise, soldiers are afraid of their superiors, but will punish or take punishment happily if there are orders in place. Sergius' comments dispel the notion of innate heroism and bravery of military men.
Arms and the Man Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Arms and the Man is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Raina, a young woman from an upper class Bulgarian family, begins the play clinging to romantic delusions about both war and love, worshiping her fiancé Sergius' brave feats in war and cherishing the pure love they share. This is at odds with what...
The enemy fugitive Bluntschli is in Raina’s bedroom. She puts him down for not being heroic and not willing to give up his life in battle He corrects her by saying that contrary to what she may have heard, it is a soldier’s duty to stay alive and...