Arms and the Man

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Captain Bluntschli Character Analysis

Bluntschli is a Swedish professional soldier who fights with the Servians during the war. He has none of Raina or Sergius’s romantic notions about war. He thinks courage is overrated and that war is more often ugly than noble. He carries sweets with him rather than extra weapons, which leads Raina to (affectionately) call him the “chocolate cream soldier.” He is an excellent soldier, much more sensible and experienced than Sergius or Major Petkoff, and seems as sensible and cynical as Raina is romantic. However, he is touched by the fact that she takes care of him when he climbs up her balcony, and eventually admits that he is also somewhat of a romantic, and declares his affection for Raina at the end of the play.

Captain Bluntschli Quotes in Arms and the Man

The Arms and the Man quotes below are all either spoken by Captain Bluntschli or refer to Captain Bluntschli. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Identity, Authenticity, and Self-Expression Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of Arms and the Man published in 1990.
Act 1 Quotes

I am a Swiss, fighting merely as a professional soldier. I joined Servia because it came first on the road from Switzerland.

Related Characters: Captain Bluntschli (speaker), Raina Petkoff
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

The sounds of gunfire have erupted, and Louka has urged Catherine and Raina to bolt the windows. The windows of Raina's bedroom, however, cannot be locked, and a soldier in Servian uniform has climbed in. He has spoken threateningly to Raina, but she seems unafraid of him, and reluctantly agrees to hide him when Louka and her mother enter. Once they are alone again, the soldier, Captain Bluntschli, explains that he is not actually Servian but a Swiss professional soldier, who joined the Servian army simply "because it came first on the road from Switzerland." This statement is a direct contradiction of romantic, nationalist understandings of heroism and war.

From a romantic perspective, Bluntschli should be fervently patriotic, and motivated to behave courageously in battle out of fierce pride and love for his country. In contrast to this ideal, Bluntschli chose Servia at random, and does not seem personally invested in the outcome of the war. His role as a professional soldier undermines the notion that war is a matter of patriotism or courage, as Bluntschli's motivation for participating in the war is purely economic. Indeed, this reflects broader trends in the shifting understanding of war toward the end of the 19th century. During this period, people were becoming more critical of war, and particularly of the way that men of the working class were made to fight, suffer, and die on behalf of high-ranking officers who would get the most benefit from victory.

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There are only two sorts of soldiers: old ones and young ones.

Related Characters: Captain Bluntschli (speaker), Raina Petkoff
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

Captain Bluntschli has begged Raina to let him stay inside a while before returning to the battle. Although Raina allows him to stay and gives him chocolate, she is scornful of his timid attitude, and declares that she herself is braver than him. She tells Bluntschli that he is unlike Bulgarian soldiers, inferring that they are more courageous, but Bluntschli disagrees, saying the only types of soldiers are "old ones and young ones." Once again, Bluntschli seems remarkably dismissive of nationalistic allegiances and romantic views of battle. He appears to consider divides between men of different nations as meaningless, pointing to the constructed nature of national identity. On the other hand, he does believe that men are distinguishable by age; as he will later argue, older men with more experience of war are less likely to be bold and reckless. 

Oh you are a very poor soldier—a chocolate cream soldier! Come, cheer up.

Related Characters: Raina Petkoff (speaker), Captain Bluntschli
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:

Captain Bluntschli has told Raina about the comic behavior of the Bulgarian forces, who––led by Sergius––charged ahead with such bravado that the Servians burst out laughing. Raina is offended, revealing to Bluntschli that she is engaged to Sergius. Bluntschli apologizes, but when Raina tells him he must leave he almost begins to cry. Pitying him, Raina calls him "a chocolate cream soldier" and decides to try and cheer him up. Raina's statement here exemplifies the unusual dynamic between her and Bluntschli. It is clear that Raina is more used to playing out the traditional gender roles of men and women, with Sergius embodying the ideal of a dominant, fearless soldier, and Raina a supportive, romantic woman. However, her affection for Bluntschli suggests that there is something appealing about his honest vulnerability.

Act 3 Quotes

I want to be quite perfect with Sergius—no meanness, no smallness, no deceit. My relation to him is the one really beautiful and noble part of my life.

Related Characters: Raina Petkoff (speaker), Captain Bluntschli, Major Sergius Saranoff
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

Sergius and Bluntschli have been working together at the desk in the library; when they are finished, Sergius and Major Petkoff depart to deliver the orders, leaving Raina and Bluntschli alone. Raina tells Bluntschli that if Sergius finds out that she hid him when he climbed onto her balcony, Sergius would kill him. Bluntschli clearly finds this idea ludicrous, which angers Raina. In this passage, Raina stresses that she wants there to be "no meanness, no smallness, no deceit" in her relationship with Sergius. Although Raina's feelings for Sergius seem to be earnest, her words are rendered hollow by the fact that there is already clearly deceit in their relationship. Both Raina and Sergius have been lying to each other throughout the play. 

Raina's claim that her relationship with Sergius "is the one really beautiful and noble part of my life" is typically melodramatic in its romanticism. It also emphasizes the lack of sovereignty and agency Raina has over her own life. Rather than being fulfilled by her own thoughts and desires, Raina lives for her relationship to Sergius, whom she idealizes as a perfect, manly hero. 

Do you know, you are the first man I ever met who did not take me seriously?
You mean, don’t you, that I am the first man that has ever taken you quite seriously?

Related Characters: Raina Petkoff (speaker), Captain Bluntschli (speaker)
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:

Raina has told Bluntschli that she doesn't want there to be any deceit in her relationship with Sergius, but Bluntschli points out she has already lied about hiding him on her balcony. Bluntschli has admitted that he is attracted to Raina, even if he doesn't believe a word she says. Raina tells him that he is the first man not to take her seriously, but Bluntschli insists that the opposite is true––that he is the first man to take her "quite seriously." This passage reveals the strange, contradictory logic underlying gendered social relations among the upper class at the time.

Clearly, Raina feels that her romantic performance of the smitten, devoted woman is necessary for men to take her seriously. As Bluntschli points out, however, anyone who believes and indulges this performance is not taking Raina seriously at all, but instead buying into a fantasy image of what women should be like. When Raina relaxes and becomes more honest with Bluntschli, however, he is able to communicate with her as an equal, addressing who she really is as a person as opposed to the archetype she is trying to imitate. 

I could no more fight with you than I could make love to an ugly woman. You’ve no magnetism: you’re not a man, you’re a machine.

Related Characters: Major Sergius Saranoff (speaker), Captain Bluntschli
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

Louka has told Sergius that Raina will marry Bluntschli, and Sergius has reacted furiously. Sergius challenges Bluntschli to a duel, and Bluntschli amusedly accepts. Sergius, Bluntschli, and Raina argue with one another, and in doing so reveal that Sergius and Raina's declarations of love are in fact false, as they are both in love with other people. In this passage, Sergius announces defeatedly that he can't fight Bluntschli, as Bluntschli is not a man but "a machine." This statement emphasizes the impression that Sergius is a comic character who would say anything rather than admit that his aggressive bravado is a false performance.

The fact that he chooses to insult Bluntschli by calling him a "machine" highlights Sergius's suspicions of Bluntschli's honest, straightforward demeanor. It is likely also a reference to the fact that Bluntschli is a professional soldier, with no patriotic allegiance or emotional attachment to war. Indeed, Sergius's words posit Bluntschli as representative of the future, and suggest that this future is dominated by a cold, transactional, and mechanical approach to life. At the same time, the play shows that Bluntschli's "mechanical" honesty is preferable to Sergius's romantic, patriotic posturing. 

My rank is the highest known in Switzerland: I am a free citizen.

Related Characters: Captain Bluntschli (speaker)
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

Although at first hesitant to marry Raina because of her age, when Bluntschli finds out that Raina is actually twenty-three, not seventeen, he asks her parents if he may propose to her. They respond that Raina is accustomed to great wealth and a high rank, and Bluntschli describes the fortune he possesses from his hotels. Major Petkoff, awed, asks if Bluntschli is "Emperor of Switzerland," but Bluntschli replies that he has the highest rank in Switzerland: "a free citizen." This claim emphasizes the fact that Bluntschli has decidedly modern ideas about class, money, and equality. Although he is hugely wealthy, to Bluntschli this is less important than being free. 

Indeed, Bluntschli's words here align him less to the Petkoffs and more to the other wise character in the play: Louka. Both Bluntschli and Louka possess the belief that being a free and equal citizen is far more important than rank and wealth. Furthermore, both suggest that high rank can in fact inhibit one's freedom, as it can make people obsessed with society's expectations, leading them to behave in a false, posturing manner.

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Captain Bluntschli Character Timeline in Arms and the Man

The timeline below shows where the character Captain Bluntschli appears in Arms and the Man. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 2
Identity, Authenticity, and Self-Expression Theme Icon
...the officer is asking to see the lady of the house. His name is Captain Bluntschli, and he is Swiss. Catherine is startled and tells Louka to bring him to the... (full context)
Identity, Authenticity, and Self-Expression Theme Icon
Captain Bluntschli greets Catherine warmly, and she tells him he was foolish to come, as the Bulgarians... (full context)
Romanticism / Idealism vs. Realism Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Just then Major Petkoff arrives, warmly greeting Bluntschli by name and shaking his hand. He does not notice how nervous Catherine is. Sergius... (full context)
Class Divisions Theme Icon
...she had made a chocolate cream soldier that Nicola had accidentally smashed. She apologizes to Bluntschli, adding that she hopes he did not think she was referring to him with such... (full context)
Act 3
Identity, Authenticity, and Self-Expression Theme Icon
Romanticism / Idealism vs. Realism Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
...in the library. There are very few books, and the furnishings are less than impressive. Bluntschli is hard at work at the desk. Sergius sits with him, and is also supposed... (full context)
Youth vs. Maturity Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Petkoff asks Bluntschli if there is any way he could be of service. Bluntschli, without pausing his writing,... (full context)
Class Divisions Theme Icon
...and asks Nicola to go fetch it. Nicola (who knows the coat is actually in Bluntschli’s bag) leaves. Petkoff playfully bets Catherine some jewelry the coat will not be found. Sergius... (full context)
Identity, Authenticity, and Self-Expression Theme Icon
Romanticism / Idealism vs. Realism Theme Icon
Youth vs. Maturity Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Raina and Bluntschli are left alone. Raina tells him that the story about the night he climbed up... (full context)
Identity, Authenticity, and Self-Expression Theme Icon
Romanticism / Idealism vs. Realism Theme Icon
Bluntschli points out that she has lied to Sergius about their meeting, and she says the... (full context)
Identity, Authenticity, and Self-Expression Theme Icon
Romanticism / Idealism vs. Realism Theme Icon
Youth vs. Maturity Theme Icon
...has always behaved in such a way—her act has always been believed. She wonders if Bluntschli now thinks her a liar and a cheat—he tells her the opposite; that he admires... (full context)
Identity, Authenticity, and Self-Expression Theme Icon
Romanticism / Idealism vs. Realism Theme Icon
...slipped a portrait of herself, with a note, into the coat pocket when he left. Bluntschli responds that he never looked in the pockets, and it is entirely possible the portrait... (full context)
Identity, Authenticity, and Self-Expression Theme Icon
Class Divisions Theme Icon
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Louka comes in, delivering written messages to Bluntschli. Bluntschli opens one and declares it is bad news—his father is dead. Raina says this... (full context)
Identity, Authenticity, and Self-Expression Theme Icon
Romanticism / Idealism vs. Realism Theme Icon
Class Divisions Theme Icon
...Louka is simply jealous of Raina. Louka laughs at this and says Raina will marry Bluntschli, a man worth ten of Sergius. Sergius takes her in his arms and insists he... (full context)
Identity, Authenticity, and Self-Expression Theme Icon
Romanticism / Idealism vs. Realism Theme Icon
Bluntschli enters as Louka leaves. Sergius confronts him, and challenges him to a duel. Bluntschli amusedly... (full context)
Identity, Authenticity, and Self-Expression Theme Icon
Romanticism / Idealism vs. Realism Theme Icon
Youth vs. Maturity Theme Icon
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Raina guesses that Bluntschli’s friend (the one who did not keep the secret of his story) has contacted Sergius,... (full context)
Identity, Authenticity, and Self-Expression Theme Icon
Youth vs. Maturity Theme Icon
Sergius despairs, and tells Bluntschli he cannot fight him, for Bluntschli is not a man so much as he is... (full context)
Identity, Authenticity, and Self-Expression Theme Icon
Romanticism / Idealism vs. Realism Theme Icon
Class Divisions Theme Icon
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Sergius hears this and in a rage throws the door open and pulls Louka inside. Bluntschli comments that he has eavesdropped before too, but it was justified because his life was... (full context)
Identity, Authenticity, and Self-Expression Theme Icon
Romanticism / Idealism vs. Realism Theme Icon
...to her, he finds it missing. Raina eventually must explain that the portrait was for Bluntschli, and Bluntschli admits he was the Swiss fugitive in the story the Major heard. (full context)
Identity, Authenticity, and Self-Expression Theme Icon
Romanticism / Idealism vs. Realism Theme Icon
...arrives and admits he and Louka are not engaged, for she does not want him. Bluntschli remarks he would hire Nicola to run his hotels, for he seems a very capable... (full context)
Identity, Authenticity, and Self-Expression Theme Icon
Romanticism / Idealism vs. Realism Theme Icon
Youth vs. Maturity Theme Icon
...She asks to know the meaning of this. Sergius says he will marry Louka, and Bluntschli congratulates them. Catherine is aghast. Louka, calling Raina by her first name, says that Raina... (full context)
Identity, Authenticity, and Self-Expression Theme Icon
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Bluntschli says that by inheriting the hotels from his father he has inherited a great fortune,... (full context)