Arms and the Man

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Major Sergius Saranoff Character Analysis

Sergius is a typical “Byronic Hero” according to the stage directions, and everything about him seems perfectly suited to a kind of romantic ideal. He is tall, handsome, wealthy, well-spoken, and seems to be deeply in love with Raina. However, though Catherine and Raina believe him to be a heroic soldier, he is in fact a foolish, reckless fighter and his only success so far has come from luck. Sergius eventually also reveals that he is not so genteel as he seems, lusting passionately after Raina’s servant, Louka, to whom is betrothed by the end of the play.

Major Sergius Saranoff Quotes in Arms and the Man

The Arms and the Man quotes below are all either spoken by Major Sergius Saranoff or refer to Major Sergius Saranoff. 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 so happy—so proud! It proves all our ideas were real after all.

Related Characters: Raina Petkoff (speaker), Major Sergius Saranoff, Catherine Petkoff
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:

Raina's mother Catherine has entered, and told Raina the news that there has been a battle in which Sergius, Raina's fiancee, courageously led the Bulgarian forces to victory. Raina is thrilled, and declares that this "proves all our ideas were real after all." This passage further emphasizes Raina's romantic ideals, and suggests that these ideas are shared by Sergius. It also illustrates the distance between these romantic notions and reality. Although Raina declares that the news about Sergius confirms her "ideas were real," this declaration makes Raina seem quite childlike and naïve. After all, the success of one battle is not enough to definitely prove any idea about war; if anything, the reality of war is one of severe violence, suffering, and death, rather than victory and happiness.

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Act 2 Quotes

Sergius Saranoff…is a tall, romantically handsome man…the result is precisely what the advent of the nineteenth century thought first produced in England: to wit, Byronism…it is clear that here is Raina’s ideal hero

Related Characters: Raina Petkoff (speaker), Major Sergius Saranoff (speaker)
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

Raina's father, Major Paul Petkoff, has entered the house with news that the war has ended. Shortly after, Sergius arrives, and Paul quietly tells Catherine that Sergius will not be promoted until it is certain that Bulgaria will not be fighting in a war again soon. When Sergius enters, the stage directions describe him as "a romantically handsome man" and "Raina's ideal hero." Indeed, he is described as Byronic, referring to the quintessential romantic figure of Lord Byron, the famous poet and lover. Although this description presents Sergius in positive terms, this positive impression is undermined by Paul's earlier words to Catherine, which suggest that Sergius's courageous persona is merely an act, and doesn't reflect his actual skills as a solider. 

Once again, the play shows that romantic ideas about life do not hold up in reality. In some ways, Sergius's presence onstage seems to have emerged directly from Raina's romantic novels; he resembles her "ideal hero," suggesting that this ideal is so powerful it overwhelms the reality of who Sergius actually is. 

Dearest, all my deeds have been yours. You inspired me. I have gone through the war like a knight in a tournament with his lady looking down on him!

Related Characters: Major Sergius Saranoff (speaker), Raina Petkoff
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

Sergius has announced that he no longer wants to be a soldier, declaring that soldiers never want to engage in battle on equal terms. He has also mentioned hearing a rumor that two Bulgarian women sheltered a Swiss man fighting with the Servian army; Catherine and Raina have pretended to be horrified, although of course in reality they are the two Bulgarian women being described. In this passage, Sergius grandly dedicates his deeds to Raina, and compares himself to "a knight in a tournament with his lady looking down on him." Sergius's words confirm that he and Raina live in a fantasy world filled with heroic archetypes and over-the-top romance, leaving them out of touch with reality.

Sergius also emphasizes the idea that Raina is a spectator to the drama of his life, just as she is a spectator to the events of the romantic novels she reads. Sergius's performance of bravado is executed for Raina's benefit; indeed, the fact that Sergius believes Raina is "looking down on him" while he is in battle explains why he behaves in such a theatrical, swaggering manner. 

I think we two have found the higher love. When I think of you, I feel that I could never do a base deed, or think an ignoble thought.

Related Characters: Raina Petkoff (speaker), Major Sergius Saranoff
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

Sergius has told Raina that everything he does is for her, and that when he was in battle he imagined her watching over him. Raina then declares that she and Sergius have found "the higher love," and that thinking of him makes her unable to "do a base deed, or think an ignoble thought." Once again, Raina uses exaggerated romantic language to discuss hers and Sergius's relationship. She speaks in superlatives and seems to conceive of her love as having an almost mystical power. However, at this point the audience knows that Raina has also secretly hidden Captain Bluntschli, and they will soon find out about Sergius's relationship with Louka. Raina's words in this passage therefore ironically foreshadow the exposure of hers and Sergius's relationship as hypocritical and false.

Which of the six of me is the real man? That’s the question that torments me. One of them is a hero, another a buffoon, another a humbug, another perhaps a bit of a blackguard. And one, at least, is a coward—jealous, like all cowards.

Related Characters: Major Sergius Saranoff (speaker)
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

Sergius has declared his love for Raina in exaggerated, dramatic terms, and the couple embrace. However, Louka then comes outside and Raina exits, and it immediately becomes clear that Sergius is infatuated with Louka. Louka has resisted his advances, causing Sergius to grow frustrated. In this passage, he ponders the idea that there are six versions of himself, all different from one another. Note that of the five examples he gives, only one––"a hero"––is positive. The rest are decidedly negative, suggesting that Sergius's arrogance and bravado perhaps conceal internal self-doubt and low self-esteem. 

Indeed, Sergius's rhetorical question at the beginning of this passage points to the multifaceted, contradictory, and confusing nature of identity. It is clear to Sergius that on some level he identifies with each of the figures he describes, but has no way of determining which is "the real man." This in turn suggests that perhaps there is no "real man" beneath his torment. At the same time, it is also possible that Sergius's confusion arises from his habit of thinking in terms of archetypes. He seems to believe that all people exist in "types" that can be summarized in one word ("hero" or "buffoon") that share the same characteristics ("jealous, like all cowards"). These types resemble literary tropes, indicating once again that Sergius's understanding of reality too closely resembles a romantic novel. 

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. 

How easy it is to talk! Men never seem to me to grow up: they all have schoolboy’s ideas. You don’t know what true courage is…I would marry the man I loved, which no other queen in Europe has the courage to do...You dare not: you would marry a rich man’s daughter because you would be afraid of what other people would say of you.

Related Characters: Louka (speaker), Major Sergius Saranoff
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

Nicola has offered Louka some of the money Sergius gave him, but she has refused, telling him that he is more of a servant than a husband. Nicola leaves, and Sergius enters. Louka questions whether Sergius is actually courageous; when Sergius insists that he is, Louka responds by telling him "you don't know what true courage is," because he is choosing to marry "a rich man's daughter" rather than Louka, the woman he loves. Here Louka emphasizes her resolutely principled attitude to the world, suggesting that she is the moral centre of the play. Although she loves Sergius, she does not speak to him with the over-the-top romantic words of Raina. Rather, she addresses him harshly, holding him to account for his hypocritical behavior. 

This passage also contains an important claim about the true nature of courage. According to the traditional, romantic ideals that characterize the society depicted in the play, courage consists of masculine, patriotic acts, such as boldly fighting for one's country. Louka, however, suggests that these are "schoolboy's ideas," and that real courage consists of daring to live and love honestly, committing oneself to the principle that all people are equal, and not adjusting one's behavior to the expectations of others. 

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. 

The world is not such an innocent place as we used to think.

Related Characters: Major Sergius Saranoff (speaker), Raina Petkoff, Louka
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

Sergius, Bluntschli, Raina, and Louka have slowly revealed their secrets to one another. Major Petkoff enters, and everyone tries to pretend that everything is normal. However, when Raina tries to steal the portrait from Major Petkoff's jacket pocket, he reveals that he has already seen it, and asks if she regularly sends "photographic souvenirs to other men." Sergius replies that "the world is not such an innocent place as we used to think." These words confirm the idea that Sergius and Raina were indeed a "couple of grown-up babies," caught up in childish fantasies that obscured the true nature of reality. As Sergius's statement suggests, honesty is the only way to destroy these illusions, which may appear "innocent" but which in fact consist of false performances and deceit.

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Major Sergius Saranoff Character Timeline in Arms and the Man

The timeline below shows where the character Major Sergius Saranoff appears in Arms and the Man. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Identity, Authenticity, and Self-Expression Theme Icon
Romanticism / Idealism vs. Realism Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
...battle, and Raina is visibly excited. When Catherine says the battle has been won by Sergius, Raina is ecstatic. Catherine says that Raina’s father has sent news that Sergius, against orders... (full context)
Identity, Authenticity, and Self-Expression Theme Icon
Romanticism / Idealism vs. Realism Theme Icon
Youth vs. Maturity Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Raina is rapturously happy to hear of Sergius’s success. She remarks that it “proves our ideas were real after all.” Her mother indignantly... (full context)
Identity, Authenticity, and Self-Expression Theme Icon
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Raina dismisses her worries as the result of cowardice, and affirms that Sergius is as splendid and noble as he looks. She happily muses that “the world really... (full context)
Identity, Authenticity, and Self-Expression Theme Icon
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Raina speaks to the portrait of Sergius, telling him she shall never be unworthy of him anymore, and calling him her “soul’s... (full context)
Identity, Authenticity, and Self-Expression Theme Icon
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Raina is disheartened by this, but remains steadfastly loyal to Sergius. She points out his portrait to the man, who recognizes him as the leader of... (full context)
Act 2
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...secrets too, mentioning he knows about something that would end the engagement of Raina and Sergius if it ever got out. Louka is incredulous and asks Nicola how he knows about... (full context)
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...the servant and Catherine’s habit of hanging laundry out where everyone can see it. Soon Sergius knocks at the door, and Nicola goes to let him in. Major Petkoff mentions to... (full context)
Identity, Authenticity, and Self-Expression Theme Icon
Romanticism / Idealism vs. Realism Theme Icon
Youth vs. Maturity Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Sergius enters, a tall and “romantically handsome” man. He is, according to the stage directions, the... (full context)
Identity, Authenticity, and Self-Expression Theme Icon
Romanticism / Idealism vs. Realism Theme Icon
Sergius announces he has submitted his resignation to the army, because he has won the war... (full context)
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Sergius greets Raina with “splendid gallantry” as if she were a queen. Raina greets her father,... (full context)
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Raina and Catherine act horribly offended by this story, and Raina wishes Sergius had refrained from telling her about such horrible women. Sergius launches into an elaborate speech... (full context)
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Sergius and Raina exchange romantic words. Sergius tells Raina all his heroic deeds have been for... (full context)
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Louka comes outside, and Sergius’s demeanor changes instantly—he becomes mischievous and twirls his mustache. He asks Louka if she knows... (full context)
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Sergius agrees. He tries to kiss Louka, and Louka tells him she doesn’t want his affection—he... (full context)
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...manner you and she put on before one another and the real manner.” This hurts Sergius, and he grabs her again. She tells him he is hurting her, and he tells... (full context)
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Louka defiantly responds that she and Sergius are made of the same “clay” and that she is worth six of Raina, who... (full context)
Identity, Authenticity, and Self-Expression Theme Icon
Romanticism / Idealism vs. Realism Theme Icon
...hospitality around, and tells Raina that if the story ever gets out, her engagement to Sergius will be over. Raina offhandedly suggests that her mother marry Sergius instead of her—for she... (full context)
Identity, Authenticity, and Self-Expression Theme Icon
...startled and tells Louka to bring him to the garden without letting Major Petkoff or Sergius see him. (full context)
Romanticism / Idealism vs. Realism Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
...Bluntschli by name and shaking his hand. He does not notice how nervous Catherine is. Sergius joins them and Petkoff apologizes that the servants have brought him to the garden instead... (full context)
Act 3
Identity, Authenticity, and Self-Expression Theme Icon
Romanticism / Idealism vs. Realism Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
...and the furnishings are less than impressive. Bluntschli is hard at work at the desk. Sergius sits with him, and is also supposed to be working, but is instead watching Bluntschli... (full context)
Youth vs. Maturity Theme Icon
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...tells him he is managing on his own, but thanks him for the kind offer. Sergius petulantly notes that the only work he is doing is signing Bluntschli’s orders, like a... (full context)
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...Bluntschli’s bag) leaves. Petkoff playfully bets Catherine some jewelry the coat will not be found. Sergius says he will give an Arabian Mare to Raina if the jacket is found. Petkoff... (full context)
Identity, Authenticity, and Self-Expression Theme Icon
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...that he thought he could rely on his friend’s discretion. She tells him that if Sergius found out, he would kill Bluntschli in a duel. Bluntschli feigns terror, clearly finding the... (full context)
Identity, Authenticity, and Self-Expression Theme Icon
Class Divisions Theme Icon
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...romantic sensibilities. Raina bitterly suggests that soldiers cannot feel grief. Louka answers by saying that Sergius is a soldier but still seems full of heart. Raina haughtily leaves the room. (full context)
Class Divisions Theme Icon
...be affectionate with Louka. She refuses him, and he offers her some of the money Sergius has just given him. She tells him, “keep your money, you were born to be... (full context)
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Sergius examines the bruise that remains on Louka’s arm and asks her if he can cure... (full context)
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Sergius denies this, saying that if he loved her he would do everything in his power... (full context)
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Sergius berates himself, calling himself a coward a liar and a fool. Louka goes to leave,... (full context)
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Bluntschli enters as Louka leaves. Sergius confronts him, and challenges him to a duel. Bluntschli amusedly accepts, knowing his skill far... (full context)
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Sergius despairs, and tells Bluntschli he cannot fight him, for Bluntschli is not a man so... (full context)
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Sergius hears this and in a rage throws the door open and pulls Louka inside. Bluntschli... (full context)
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...run his hotels, for he seems a very capable man. Louka demands an apology from Sergius—he finally agrees, taking her hand and apologizing. She reminds him he promised that should he... (full context)
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Catherine enters and sees Sergius and Louka. She asks to know the meaning of this. Sergius says he will marry... (full context)
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...chocolate cream soldier.” Bluntschli laughs delightedly, gets up, and makes a military bow, and exits. Sergius has the last line of the play: “What a man!” (full context)