“Arms and the Man” was the first commercial success in the Shaw bibliography, mainly because his first play – overly politicized, not liked by those who preferred more sophisticated and allegorical stories to the theater – turned out to be a complete failure, and his two subsequent works were subjected to a tough Victorian censorship. Shaw learned the lesson he presented and, although he did not completely remove it, but shifted his socialist views to the background, where the main scenes take place.
Comedy Shaw, of course, in the consistency of cruelty and doom is not compared with the tragedy of Joe Bonham, but he, like Trumbo, rebels against the war. Trumbo wrote about the horrors of World War II, Shaw – foreshadowed the horrors of the First. “Arms and the Man” is published in the 1890s, when monstrous pictures of one of the most large-scale armed conflicts in the history of mankind have not come to life yet, and people have not yet grasped the fruits of political games. In 1914, young, green guys, went en masse to war, hoping to return as heroes.
The main protagonist of the play, Swedish mercenary soldier Blunchly – the most interesting and memorable character of the whole production – a symbol of the social dichotomy that has erupted in society. The military, who despises the war, believes that the main duty of any soldier is to stay alive, and not to kill as many opponents as possible. He believes that the thing a soldier should carry in his bosom is food, and not a loaded pistol, and he certainly is not one of those noble cretins who are lost on the battlefield or worse, they will rush into battle in the front ranks. He is a professional soldier, and he knows: if a battle is imminent, one must flee.