Arms and the Man Essay
Arms and the Man
G. B. Saw’s Freedom actually is one of the series of radio talks delivered in 1935 on the B. B. C. As it was intended for the larger circles in their capacity as listeners, the lecture seems to be free from theoretical jargons. But Shaw can be very much deceptive in what he says. For, behind his homour lies the satire of the contemporary social condition. Not only that, his simple talk was actually a denunciation of the conventional and capitalist view of freedom.
Politically Shaw conformed to democratic socialism, a variant of Marxism, according to which the society should try to reach the socialist political condition gradually by the democratic means. The concept of freedom, which Shaw satirises, was the fundamental principle of Enlightenment, and he does so because in a capitalist society, according to the Marxian view, freedom of the individual can never be realised. Shaw begins the essay with the proposition that a person can be called completely free in such a condition, in which he will be able to “ do what he likes, when he likes, and where he likes, or do nothing at all if he prefers it”.
He firmly denies the possibility of the existence of such a person as human beings are all slaves to nature: “…we must all sleep for one third of our lifetime__ wash and dress and undress__ we must spend a couple of hours eating and drinking__ we must spend nearly as much in getting about from one place to place. ” From this funny yet inexorable condition of human life, Shaw very cleverly moves on to the fact that some of the “natural jobs” can be placed on others’ shoulders: “What you do to a horse or a bee, you can do to a man or woman or child…sort”.
With this Shaw, however, comes to the immediate social and political condition of the time, in which the concept of freedom __ derived from the grand idealistic project of the Enlightenment, and nationalistic bias produced by the First World War __ was being glorified and used by the upper class as a means to achieving their self-interests. According to Shaw the farce of the democratic system in a capitalist state lies in the fact that “most actual governments…enforce your slavery and call it freedom”.
But the citizens of the state continue to be duped by the system instead of rising to protest. Shaw terms this unequal relationship “the unnatural slavery of man to man”. Shaw points out an important difference between the “natural slavery of man to Nature and the unnatural slavery of man to man”. According to him, the first, though unavoidable, provides pleasure after its fulfilment; for instance, if nature forces us to drink, she makes drinking pleasant. The same is true of eating, drinking, sleeping and other activities.
Shaw introduces this difference and cites examples more importantly to explain the evils of the former in more acute terms. He refers to few thinkers like Karl Marx and Thomas Moore, who denounced this slavery and tried to abolish it. At this point his explanation of the capitalist mechanism, that is, the means by which the system tries to dupe people and establish, legitimize and perpetuate itself approaches the ideological theories of Althusser and Gramsci. “Ideology represents”, Althusser tells us, “the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real condition of existence. He points out that there are found a number of ideologies – namely, religious ideology, ethical ideology, legal ideology, political ideology – all of which operate invisibly in the superstructure. Shaw strikes at the very root when he says, “Naturally the master class, through its parliaments and schools and newspapers, makes the most desperate efforts to prevent us from realizing our slavery. ” He explains historically how the British capitalist system has established itself by propagating the so-called glorious events as the Magna Charta, the defeat of the Spanish Armada and Napoleon.
Then he explains how “ideological apparatuses”, to quote Althusser, manipulate the common mass to cast votes in favour of the capitalist leaders. What is more alarmingly effective, according to him, is the educational system, which operates in the superstructure and “ends in deluding the master class much more completely”. Thus Shaw explains the difference between two kinds of slavery and conclusively tells the listeners/readers: “Wipe out from yours dreams of freedom the hope of being able to do as you please all the time. For, according to him, people have to remain occupied doing the natural slavery for at least twelve hours a day, while their unnatural slavery is controlled and regulated by the legal and administrative system of the country. Character of Louka in Arms and the Man Shaw conceived of Louka as a strong willed woman, necessary for his dramatic purpose of exposing the vanity of the upper-class and the political purpose of showing the socialist principle of showing equality among individuals in a society.
It must be said that it was daring attempt on Shaw’s part to lead and raise a maidservant to the status of an aristocratic lady. But he does not do this as a kind of poetic justice or as a matter of mercy; he makes her capable of realizing her aims and object by her worth as a human being and by her strong will power. In the beginning of the play Louka is presented as a maid-servant having some sort of tension with the lady she serves. She behaves in defiant manners and her physical movements, gestures and postures produce the impression of haughtiness and discontent.
The audience ascribes this to typical feminine jealousy of a servant for the lady of the same age, but in Act II they understand that she is Raina’s rival in love and is eyeing something above her position. Her confidence is generated from some of the secrets she knows about the ladies of the house. Always on the lookout for those sorts of things, she discovers a terrible truth about the fugitive in Raina’s chamber at night and keeps it for use in future. In Act II Louka is given a loud voice justifying her position.
While being instructed threateningly by the middle-aged maid servant Nicola, she scornfully rejects his advice and brands him as a person with “the soul of a servant”. From Nicola, however, we come to know the predicament of Louka and her father “on his little farm”. Shaw here brings out the conflicts between rich and the poor, fuming in the backyard of patriotism and nationalism. Shaw makes this explicit by making Nicola fully aware of the effects any confrontation with the aristocracy will bring about.
It is not that Louka is not conscious of this; in fact, her defiance of the upper-class people can be ascribed to the angst deposited in her. But while Nicola chooses to reap profit by serving the upper-class and thereby cashing on their weaknesses, Louka resorts to using her youth and feminine skills backed up by her will-power to trap an upper-class gentleman. In Act II Louka employs her youth and charms when she finds Sergius posing as a playboy. From the familiarity of their conversation we can understand that this is not the first time that Sergius engages himself in relaxation from the pressure of higher love” for Raina.
As soon as Louka detects his susceptibility or vulnerability, she proceeds to break Raina’s pose of higher love by informing him of the presence of another man in her chamber at night. She does this in order to bring her down to her level of an ordinary human being before Sergius. Even she goes to the extent of saying “I am worth six of her”, meaning that she is capable of serving or satisfying the six different persons in Sergius, which Raina, according to her, is not capable of.
But it would be an injustice to the character if we say that Louka uses only her youthful charms; we find her possessing subtle power of observation, by which she can surely foretell Raina’s move away from Sergius in the case of the fugitive’s return. No other person, including Raina could have this kind anticipation because Louka observes her from a pragmatic position: “I know the difference between the sort of manner you and she put on before one another and the real manner. Thus she creates agitations in Sergius’s mind quite consciously and deliberately in order that she may win him away by exposing both of them. But since she is intelligent enough to anticipate that he will not believe her unless and until he discovers the truth himself, she lets him out to find the rest of the truth. In Act III Louka enters the stage with her usual “bold free gait” with the marked difference that her left sleeve is “looped up to the shoulder with a brooch, shewing her naked arm, with a broad gilt bracelet covering the bruise”.
She does this intentionally in order to remind Sergius of the mark he made on her arm, and perhaps to display proudly the mark as a gift of love in a sort of masochistic exhibitionism. Nicola, as a man with practical wisdom can sense something wrong with her, and that is why he proceeds to warn her about her unusual fashion. Here once again she reiterates her contempt for his servile mentality and refuses to accept 10 levas from him as share of the bribes.
Her basic independent nature is to be found in the following words: “You were born to be a servant. I was not. When you set up your shop you will be everybody’s servant instead of somebody’s servant. ” She demonstrates the place she is eying to reach at by seating herself ‘regally’ in Sergius’s chair, an act which the audience notice with surprise and amusement. As Nicola understands her and humbly makes way for Sergius, she once again attracts Sergius now with the mark of bruise, which she uses as a kind of bait for him.
When Sergius tries to compensate for the bruise by offering her an amorous favor, she rejects it straight and tries to make him understand that she wants more. She entangles him in a sort of emotional cheating with the protestation of the courage she can show in the case of realizing her true love: “If I loved you, though you would be as far beneath me as I am beneath you, I would dare to be the equal of my inferior. ” Here by implication of the logic Louka wants him to come out of the class-barrier and accept her on equal terms.
When Sergius expresses his inability and insults her by making a comparison between Raina and her in terms of the difference between heaven and earth, she returns this and the charge of her being jealous of Raina with a bold assertion: “I have no reason to be. She will never marry you. The man I told you of has come back. She will marry the Swiss. ” Thus she succeeds in creation an emotional storm in his mind and in making him confess: “If I choose to love you, I dare marry you in spite of all Bulgaria. ” In true chivalric fashion he even pronounces an oath, which she readily jumps upon to win him away in the next encounter.
In the final encounter with Sergius Louka gathers all her strength of mind and risks being caught up in eavesdropping. However, quite unexpectedly she finds a supporter in Bluntschli, who defends her act by saying that he too once committed this kind of act as his “life was at stake”. Louka takes the cue from him and boldly declares her “love was at stake”. At this point we find Raina insulting her from her supposed social superiority and thus quite unknowingly provoking her to disclose the truth about her chocolate cream soldier.
Louka is further insulted after the discovery of the “chocolate cream soldier”, and she turns the situation in her favor by forcing Sergius to apologize to her. As he still clings to his false heroic ideals, he apologises and falls motionless in her trap. In fine, we can say that through the presentation of Louka, Shaw illustrates once again the triumph of women in the chase of the men of their desire. There may be perhaps another reason: she is necessary as the woman for Sergius because she can balance the excess of romantic ideas and impractical dreams in him.
But the audience cannot be sure of her capacity; for, immediately after becoming Major Sergius Saran off’s “affianced bride”, she addresses the lady she was serving by her name and tries to scandalize Raina by openly expressing her doubt of the latter’s being “fonder of him than Sergius”. The audience and more particularly the readers can take note of the fact that she does not utter a single word after that. She remains speechless even at the climax of the action when the chocolate cream soldier becomes Raina’s man amidst many revelations and amazements.
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 20 October 2016
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