Arms and the Man

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Raina Petkoff Character Analysis

Raina is the play’s protagonist, a 23-year-old Bulgarian woman who is betrothed to the “heroic” Sergius, and who speaks in a dramatic, affected manner and (for much of the play) sing Sergius’s praises. The Petkoffs are an affluent, powerful family in Bulgaria and Raina works hard to maintain the kind of dignified air that (she imagines) befits her status. She acts like a hopeless romantic, often clutching a novel and staring dreamily out the window. But when she meets Bluntschli, after he crawls onto her balcony while fleeing battle, it becomes clear she is not what she seems. Though Bluntschli is the opposite of everything Raina professes to want, she is intrigued by him, and eventually falls for him. She admits to him later that she speaks with such passion and drama not because she feels such things but because she notices it often has an effect and people admire her for it. She eventually agrees to court Bluntschli and breaks off her engagement with Sergius.

Raina Petkoff Quotes in Arms and the Man

The Arms and the Man quotes below are all either spoken by Raina Petkoff or refer to Raina Petkoff. 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

On the balcony a young lady, intensely conscious of the romantic beauty of the night, and of the fact that her own youth and beauty are part of it, is gazing at the snowy Balkans.

Related Characters: Raina Petkoff
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

The play has opened to a bedroom in a small town in Bulgaria. The furniture reveals both the wealth and class aspirations of the family who own the house, and on the wall hangs a portrait of a handsome young soldier. On the balcony a young woman, Raina Petkoff, stands "gazing at the snowy Balkans" and pondering both the beauty of the natural landscape and "her own youth and beauty." This brief, rather sarcastic description establishes important facts about Raina's personality. Although not exactly vain, she has an extremely romantic attitude to life. Rather than thinking about the suffering caused by the Bulgarian-Serbian war, she is instead caught up in a reverie about natural beauty. Raina's thoughts thus reflect her own youthful idealism, as well as the preoccupations of romantic literature, which arguably over-simplifies and obscures the realities of life in many ways.

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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.

The world is really a glorious world for women who can see its glory and men who can act its romance!

Related Characters: Raina Petkoff (speaker)
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

Having heard the news that Sergius has been victorious in battle, Raina has exclaimed that this proves that her ideas about the romance of war are real. She has confessed to her mother that she sometimes worries that her romantic view of war comes from reading Pushkin and Byron, but in this passage declares that "the world is really a glorious world for women who can see its glory." Once again, this statement has the unintended effect of making Raina seem childlike and naïve. Her sudden certainty that the world is "glorious" shows how sheltered she is from the realities of war, poverty, and suffering. 

Furthermore, note the stark gender discrepancies in Raina's view of the world. As a woman, she considers herself a spectator; her role is to "see" the glory of the world, rather than directly participate in it. In this sense, Raina views the world rather like a romantic novel. She observes and delights in its "glory" and "romance," but does not herself play a major role in its workings. A man's role in the world, on the other hand, is to "act its romance." Again, such a statement reflects the naïve, idealized version of men's lives––and particularly the experience of going to war––that women at the time were encouraged to believe. 

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.

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 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.

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. 

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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Raina Petkoff Character Timeline in Arms and the Man

The timeline below shows where the character Raina Petkoff 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
Class Divisions Theme Icon
Youth vs. Maturity Theme Icon
On the balcony there is a beautiful lady (Raina), who looks out into the sky as though she is appreciating its beauty, and as... (full context)
Identity, Authenticity, and Self-Expression Theme Icon
Romanticism / Idealism vs. Realism Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Catherine chastises Raina for being up and out of bed so late, and Raina tells her she couldn’t... (full context)
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Raina is rapturously happy to hear of Sergius’s success. She remarks that it “proves our ideas... (full context)
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Raina dismisses her worries as the result of cowardice, and affirms that Sergius is as splendid... (full context)
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...almost insolent. She also looks excited, but not in the rapturous way of Catherine and Raina, and she is clearly contemptuous of their romantic demeanors. She tells them that there will... (full context)
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Raina expresses her sadness that the Bulgarians, her people, are cruelly slaughtering fugitives, and wonders what... (full context)
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Raina speaks to the portrait of Sergius, telling him she shall never be unworthy of him... (full context)
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There is the sound of the shutters opening and closing, and a figure enters Raina’s room. The man lights a match and Raina demands to know who is there. He... (full context)
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Raina scornfully tells him he is not behaving like a gentlemen. There are footsteps outside Raina’s... (full context)
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...enters to say that neighbors have seen a man crawling up the water pipe into Raina’s rooms. Raina insists she heard nothing. Catherine calls a Russian officer into the room, and... (full context)
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The man emerges from his hiding place, expresses his undying gratitude to Raina and explains that he is Swiss, a professional soldier, and that he bears no allegiance... (full context)
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The man wishes he had some chocolates now, and Raina goes to her drawers and scornfully thrusts a box of chocolate creams his way. He... (full context)
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Raina is moved by this vulnerability, and apologizes. She then draws herself up and says that... (full context)
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Raina skeptically demands that he explain himself, and he describes a cavalry charge, led by a... (full context)
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Raina is disheartened by this, but remains steadfastly loyal to Sergius. She points out his portrait... (full context)
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Raina is “disarmed by pity” and comforts him, calling him a “chocolate cream soldier” and tells... (full context)
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The man tells Raina she better inform her mother, for he does not wish to be a secret guest... (full context)
Act 2
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...he knows 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... (full context)
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...He is, according to the stage directions, the picture of Byronism—idealistic, handsome, brooding. He is Raina’s “ideal hero.” Catherine is delighted to see him. Major Petkoff, less so. (full context)
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...war for Bulgaria and still been unfairly denied a promotion. He then asks to see Raina, who appears suddenly around the side of the house. Petkoff remarks aside to Catherine that... (full context)
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Sergius greets Raina with “splendid gallantry” as if she were a queen. Raina greets her father, and listens... (full context)
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Raina and Catherine act horribly offended by this story, and Raina wishes Sergius had refrained from... (full context)
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Sergius and Raina exchange romantic words. Sergius tells Raina all his heroic deeds have been for her, and... (full context)
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...refuses, so she suggests that they at least go somewhere they cannot be seen, as Raina is probably watching them from the window. (full context)
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...kiss Louka, and Louka tells him she doesn’t want his affection—he is making love behind Raina’s back just as she is doing behind his. Sergius recoils and demands her to explain... (full context)
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She says she doesn’t know, for she only heard his voice through Raina’s bedroom door. She says she is sure that if the man ever returns, Raina will... (full context)
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...and Sergius are made of the same “clay” and that she is worth six of Raina, who is “a liar and a cheat.” Sergius apologizes for hurting her, and Louka asks... (full context)
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Now in private with Raina, Catherine calls the Swiss man a beast for spreading the story of their hospitality around,... (full context)
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...says he believes he could help. Sergius happily tells him to come inside. Just then, Raina arrives, and exclaims in shock, “the chocolate cream soldier!” (full context)
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Raina collects herself and explains that she had made a chocolate cream soldier that Nicola had... (full context)
Act 3
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...quick and efficient progress. Major Petkoff is lounging happily on the ottoman, reading a newspaper. Raina is relaxing on a divan under a window, staring outside with a neglected novel in... (full context)
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...the coat will not be found. Sergius says he will give an Arabian Mare to Raina if the jacket is found. Petkoff notices that Raina has barely been listening, and affectionately... (full context)
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Raina and Bluntschli are left alone. Raina tells him that the story about the night he... (full context)
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...hearing lies and getting ones life saved is simply part of being a soldier, and Raina tells him he is incapable of a noble thought. He then tells her that when... (full context)
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Raina is flustered, making as if to reprimand him, and acting offended until finally she relents,... (full context)
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...he thought of her portrait, and he grows confused, saying he never received a portrait. Raina reveals that she slipped a portrait of herself, with a note, into the coat pocket... (full context)
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...messages to Bluntschli. Bluntschli opens one and declares it is bad news—his father is dead. Raina says this is sad news, and Bluntschli, betraying no signs of grief, says he will... (full context)
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...But, he says, he loves another woman, and adds that Louka is simply jealous of Raina. Louka laughs at this and says Raina will marry Bluntschli, a man worth ten of... (full context)
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...a duel. Bluntschli amusedly accepts, knowing his skill far surpasses that of the young Sergius. Raina hurries in, having overheard the confrontation, and asks them to explain. Sergius accuses Raina of... (full context)
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Raina guesses that Bluntschli’s friend (the one who did not keep the secret of his story)... (full context)
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...a man so much as he is a “machine” and men cannot fight with machines. Raina tells him perhaps he ought to fight Nicola, who is engaged to Louka. This sets... (full context)
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...spite of himself. But then he draws himself up and says “I am not ashamed!” Raina contemptuously remarks that Louka is not in love, she is only curious. (full context)
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Major Petkoff enters, and everyone pretends everything is normal. He is holding his jacket. Raina asks to help him put it on, and as she does, takes her portrait from... (full context)
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...Sergius says he will marry Louka, and Bluntschli congratulates them. Catherine is aghast. Louka, calling Raina by her first name, says that Raina will not be hurt by this, for she... (full context)
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...from his father he has inherited a great fortune, and would be a good husband. Raina insists she will not be bought, saying she did not give candy to the “Emperor... (full context)