Arms and the Man


George Bernard Shaw

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The Library Symbol Icon
The library in the Petkoff home is often held up as a symbol of their wealth, status, and accomplishment. Libraries are rare in Bulgarian homes, and therefore the library does indicate the family’s wealth—but it also ironically symbolizes their lack of better learning, critical thinking, and cultural awareness. The library notably has very few books in it, and Major Petkoff, despite his pride in his library, isn’t very well read. Though it indicates financial success it also indicates the emptiness and shallowness embodied by people like Major Petkoff.
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The Library Symbol Timeline in Arms and the Man

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Library 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
Class Divisions Theme Icon
...guest he can come to no harm. Their home has a staircase, and even a library. The man pretends to be deeply impressed, though it is clear he finds Raina’s speech... (full context)
Act 2
Romanticism / Idealism vs. Realism Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
...and Petkoff apologizes that the servants have brought him to the garden instead of the library. He explains that he and Sergius have been working on how to bring troops home... (full context)
Act 3
Identity, Authenticity, and Self-Expression Theme Icon
Romanticism / Idealism vs. Realism Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
The third act takes place in the library. There are very few books, and the furnishings are less than impressive. Bluntschli is hard... (full context)