The Idea of the Futility of Romantic Love in Shavian Plays

The play, Arms and the Man, not only reveals the hollowness of romantic love but also presents a matter-of-fact practical attitude towards marriage. The love between Raina and Sergius is based on old-fashioned notions of romance and chivalry. Usually, Raina’s attitude towards love was influenced by her reading of poetry of Byron and Pushkin and her visits to the opera. When Sergius returns at the end of the war, she tells him that there is a higher love or a spiritual bond between them, which is an example of romantic love. At this time, Raina speaks of love in lofty tones and believes that love is something ennobling, uplifting, and elevating. Sergius reciprocates his sentiment. But, as Mukherjee argues that

They make a funny show of superficial love, devoid of any sense of reality. After a long talking of higher love with Raina, Sergius seeks a diversion in flirting with Louka. So we find Sergius making advances to Louka, a maid servant. He confesses before Louka that higher love is a very “fatiguing” thing and thus all his declarations of love for Raina prove to be deceptive. Shaw, thus, dramatizes that pretension and hypocrisy are parts of romantic love (Mukherjee xii).

Shaw, as a realist, accepted the truth that romantic love is only a pleasant illusion, which attracts people to take the burden of serious duties of parenthood “love as a practical factor in society, is still a mere appetite” (Shaw Major 38).

Sociopolitical Worldview of George Bernard Shaw
1. Abstract
2. Introduction: Shaw as a reformer of social, political and theatrical conventions
3. War is the Coward’s Art
4. Socialism as a Way to Achieve Political and Economic Freedom
5. Futility of Romantic Love
6. Presentations of Upper Class Society
7. Conventional Family and Marriage as a Hindrance for Reformation
8. Life Force, the Core Relation between Man and Woman
9. Hope in Evolution, or the Replacement of Man by Superman
10. Conclusion: Shaw advertised his doctrines on the problems of modern society
11. Works Cited

আরো পড়ুন:  প্রকৃতিবাদ উনবিংশ শতাব্দীর শেষের বাস্তববাদের অনুরূপ সাহিত্য আন্দোলন

In Shavian plays, ideas are propagated in many ways. Characters embody ideas, which contradict against each other, and at the end, Shaw draws his conclusion about the problem debated in the play. Arms and the Man does not display conflicting emotions. Here, the conflict is between the romantic and realistic views of life, particularly about love and war. The experiences of Raina and Sergius correct their previous false notions of idealism in love and war. The play is made up of a number of scenes, in which characters are engaged in discussions. Through these discussions and debates, the clash of ideas is carried on characters embodying opposite views interact and clash, and thus, the point of view of the dramatist develops and culminates in a definite finale (Mukherjee xii).

Shaw is one of the greatest humorists in English literature. His humour arises from the discrepancy between instincts and reason and intellect or social institution and social codes of conduct. His humour is not just satirical in nature, but it has a far resounding purpose to correct the ills in the society. The idea of love also attacked with a humourous way for the same purpose; as Mukherjee argues,

Arms and the Man is a play rich in humour. Major Petkoff, Catherine, Sergius and Bluntschli — are all humorous creations as in their thoughts, words or actions, they are below the normal or the expected level. Bluntschli is a masterpiece of comic characterization and the source of much fun and humour in the play, with his craving for chocolate-cream and with his shying like a frightened horse. He is nervous like a mouse. (Mukherjee xiii)

In Man and Superman, on the other hand, the main plot is portrayed in a comedic manner. As presented in the play, Ann’s purpose in life is to be a mother, and she has to find out the most desirable mate for her. She rejects the sentimental romantic Octavius and chooses the   revolutionary Tanner of shocking behavior. From the point of view of Ann’s purpose, the poetic temperament of Octavius is quite barren, and she rejects her romantic advances. The major theme of the play is Life Force, which works not only in Ann, but also in Tanner. Under the influence of that force, Tanner has to yield to the irresistible charms of Ann. Though Tanner “never feels safe with” her, “there is a devilish charm—or no; not a charm, a subtle interest” (Shaw Man 46) in her, he cannot escape surrender, for all living creatures are under the influence of Life Force. But resisting her charm, on another occasion, he calls her vampire, boa constrictor, liar, hypocrite, on various other occasions. In this love-hate relationship, we find Tanner alternating between the creator-man and the victim of woman, the pursuer. Tanner loves Ann not in the old romantic or platonic way, but to become a mere instrument on the hand of the woman and to become the father of her children.

আরো পড়ুন:  হোমারের হেলেন অন্য সবার কাছে শুধুই অগ্নিশিখা, ধ্বংসের দূত, প্রেয়সী; কিন্তু মাতাও

Occasionally, Shaw’s humour limits on the farcical aspect. His habit of deflating big names or giving people nicknames is a source of broad humour in his plays. In Arms and the Man, Raina nicknames Bluntschli as “chocolate-cream soldier” because he eats chocolates.This nickname-giving tendency of Shaw helps to increase the affection between Raina and Bluntschli in this play, but in contrast, in Man and Superman, the Ricky Tick Tavy, the nickname of Octavious Robinson, fails to create any affection between them; maybe because in this play, Life Force is the major theme. Octavius, a rather simple and idealistic soul, suffers for his love of Ann, who merely toys with him and then throws him over for Jack. Tavy will probably never marry in his life, but he will enshrine his brief moment with Ann on the altar of his heart.

There is an abundance of wit in the play. Bluntschli has a ready wit and is never at loss for words. He makes many sarcastic remarks in the course of the play. Raina, too, is a witty woman. When her mother warns her that Sergius might break off his engagement with her, she gives a witty and pungent reply, “I sometimes wish you could marry him instead of me. You would just suit him. You would pet him and spoil him and mother him to perfection” (Shaw Arms104).

Shaw ridicules sentiment and makes fun of romantic love, family affections, respectability and conventional virtues. He goes to the roots of the accepted beliefs and ideals and shows the essential reality behind the external and the superficial, and further that the external is not real but the distortion of reality. In his view there is not merely some social evil or injustice here and there, but the whole social structure is distorted and based on false assumptions. To Shaw, instinct is more powerful than affection or love. His view of love is conditioned by his theory of Life Force that is going to discuss in a chapter in this study.

আরো পড়ুন:  Bernard Shaw's view on War as the Coward’s Art

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