Discuss the Character of Sergius Saranoff in “Arms and the Man”

Sergius Saranoff is a Byronic hero in the drama ‘Arms and the Man‘. Shaw presents Sergius to expose the romantic idealism of war and love. But he is not merely an embodiment of a mere satiric idea. Sergius is described by shaw as “a tall romantically handsome man with the physical hardihood, the high spirit, and the susceptible imagination of an untamed mountaineer chieftain”. He lives thoroughly in Pushkin and he formed a romantic world around him.

Sergius has a romantic illusion regarding love and war. To him, war is full of glory and he goes to war like a true knight. On the battlefield, he led his army against the fieldguns. He won the battle because his enemies were supplied with the wrong ammunition. He is very much unreal and romantic in his notion of love. Sergius believes in higher love which he possesses for Raina. She is his goddess, his queen, and his heroine. His love is based on illusion and therefore it is easily shattered when he knows the truth. He finds higher love very much tíring and for refreshment, he indulges in a flirtation with Louka.

Sergius is a foolish and self-conceited man. He has no penetrating insight or proper understanding. He is incapable of thinking reasonably. Sergius is conceited and thinks highly of himself. Though he has committed the greatest blunder in the battlefield, he thinks that he has done a great deed of heroism. In Sergius, there is no concentration no proper application. The result is that he is caught in the trap laid for him by Louka and becomes a mere puppet in her hands and ultimately marries her.

Sergius is also capable of possessing some common sense and he gradually becomes aware of the reality about which he was so long blinded. The experiences of war make him feel that there is no romance in soldiering. To him, war is the coward’s art of attacking mercilessly when one is strong and keeping out of harm’s way when one is weak. His romance of love is also shattered. He realizes it’s hollowness. In fact, Sergius is a mixture of a number of opposite qualities romanticism, idealism, self-importance, folly conceit, and some good sense, which are inherent in his nature, lead him to act differently on different occasions. He himself is conscious of this mixture of opposites in his nature and says.

“(speaking to himself) which of the six 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.”

In short, Sergius’s character has been conditioned by the anti-romantic intentions of the dramatist. Just as Captain Bluntschli typifies anti-romanticism, Sergius stands for romanticism. His character is just the opposite of Bluntschli’s. He is a foil to Bluntschli’s. He serves to throw his anti-romanticism into sharp relief by comparison. In the beginning, he is at the center of the action, but gradually he is pushed into the background.

Also read: Arms and the Man as an anti-romantic comedy