Knight in a Tournament
Raina and Sergius make a romance out of their love, using phrases and ideas they have read in books. Sergius claims he has gone through the war “like a knight in a tournament with his lady looking down at him” (Act II, p. 31). The lovers attempt to act out what Raina calls a “higher love” (Act II, p. 31), full of noble ideals. Sergius calls Raina “My lady and my saint” (Act II, p. 31). Both Sergius and Raina pose when they enter a room, as in a melodrama. Raina speaks in a “thrilling voice” (Act III, p. 51), and Sergius plays the disillusioned Byronic misfit. Bluntschli humorously accuses Sergius of playing soldier “like an operatic tenor” (Act I, p. 13), “charging like Don Quixote at the windmills” (Act I, p. 14). Even Major Petkoff does not want his future son-in-law to be made a general for fear he will throw away “whole brigades instead of regiments,” (Act II, p. 26), referring to Sergius’s dramatic flare but incompetence at warfare. After all, the soldiers on both sides laugh as he mistakenly makes a charge at the enemy that should have killed everyone. Instead, he comes out as a hero who wins the war.
Raina is often referred to by herself and her family as a dreamer. When the play opens, she is dreamily looking out at the romantic night on her balcony. She tells her mother about “our heroic ideals” referring to the cavalry charge that fulfills the lovers’ mutual dream of a noble life (Act I, p. 3). A dreamer is one who can see the poetry of life and who can act the poetry of life, she tells her mother. She refers to her sitting at home as the mere “dreaming” of life (Act II, p. 31). When her father speaks to her, she is in a trance or reverie and does not answer. He says, “She’s dreaming, as usual” (Act III, p. 48).
Bluntschli, on the other hand, disturbs Raina’s romantic dreaming, bringing her down to earth. He is practical and knows how to get things done. He is blunt, like his name, and does not pretend. He points out to Raina that she lies and that her life is a lie, not based on the truth. This implies her dreams are illusions rather than ideals to live up to. The fact that she is attracted to him, and that she likes it when he sees through her act of being a heroine in a novel, means she is ready to give up her childish dreams. Sergius, too, is “fatigued” by the higher love (Act II, p. 32) and responds to Louka’s earthy love-making. The message of the play is that romantic dreams are both silly and dangerous to life.
Peas Against the Window Pane
Bluntschli attempts to correct Raina’s romantic ideas of war by explaining to her what a cavalry charge is really like. He compares it to throwing a handful of peas against a window pane. First one pea hits the pane, then two or three more, then the rest in a lump. The first one to the front is not brave; his horse is running away from him. That is usually a young soldier. The seasoned soldiers come behind the others in a lump. They hide behind the ones who are eager to get glory and get there first. Their injuries are thus not from being shot, but from the horses jamming together.
Bluntschli goes on to tell Raina other details about how warfare is actually conducted, not according to ideals, but necessity. The old soldiers, for instance, carry extra food instead of ammunition. He himself carries chocolate. The soldiers seem to have no illusion about being cannon fodder, and this sense is implicit in the comparison to a charge as “flinging a handful of peas” (Act I, p.13). There is therefore nothing noble in a cavalry charge; it is about the probabilities of survival according to when a soldier arrives at the front line. When Raina accuses Bluntschli of cowardice, saying some soldiers are not afraid to die, he reminds her that “It is our duty to live as long as we can” (Act I, p. 7), belying the idea that it is patriotic to die for one’s country. Soldiers must continue to live so that they again and again be like peas being flung against more window panes.
The Chocolate-Cream Soldier
Raina refers to Bluntschli as her “chocolate-cream soldier” because he carries chocolates instead of ammunition. The metaphor has several implications. It is an anti-romantic image, suggesting either a cowardly effeminate soldier, or at best, a practical soldier, who thinks of food and survival more than the art of warfare. Shaw humorously criticizes the value of warfare through this unusual metaphor. The soldiers are not thinking noble thoughts of patriotism as they risk their lives; they are just blundering through to the next bed or meal.
Chocolate also has sexual overtones. Raina significantly hides and feeds Bluntschli chocolates in her bedroom and lets him sleep in her bed, symbolizing her attraction to him. She covers up her act and the nickname to her family by pretending that she means something innocent: a chocolate-cream soldier on a pastry. The title and image of the chocolate soldier are anti-heroic. Bluntschli is not a fierce fighter at all. He is homey, tasty, domestic, and somewhat passive. He is as manageable by Raina as a chocolate figure on a dessert cake. She prefers a chocolate-cream soldier whom she can consume rather than the pretentious Sergius she would have to admire and look up to.
Knight in a Tournament