19th Century Russian Literature

Feb24th

Hero of Our Time

There is a youthful energy to this text that is really a series of five stories bundled together into a whole that some call a marvelous psychological novel. What do we learn about Pechorin in each section as we see him through three sets of eyes?

Comments

  1. Kaylen Baker
    February 25th, 2009 | 11:35 am

    In the first story “Bela,” we discover Pechorin through Captain Maksim Maksimich’s story, as told to the narrator, told to us. So we receive a third-hand account of this man while he lived at Stone Ford, but the opinion of Pechorin is really Maksim’s here. In the beginning Pechorin sounds like a remarkable and extraordinary figure: “He was so slim and white, and so fashionably dressed,” (contrasting ugly “villain” Kazbich) and “A fine man he was, I assure you, though a bit odd,” and “when he occasionally did start telling stories you’d split your sides laughing.” Maksim admits that Pechorin had faults, which become very apparent later when Pechorin loses interest in Bela, and acts relieved after her death, (he laughs!), which has given him freedom to move on to his next fancy. Yet Maksim places Pechorin on a pedestal because he was so vivacious, larger-than-life, and pursues his passions. This romantic story is juxtaposed next to beautiful descriptions of the surrounding mountains that the narrator witnesses. Together, the components of the story and the surrounding landscape paint a fantastical, unbelievable illusion of Pechorin – which causes both the narrator and Maksim to feel nostalgic for some bygone era (even though it was just 5 years ago) of remarkable men, and allows the application of the term” hero”.

    In the second story “Maksim Maksimich,” we see Pechorin through the narrator’s eyes, where he describes Pechorin’s physical traits in a manner that confirms our suspicions of Pechorin’s inner traits, which are not honorable or trustworthy. “[His eyes] didn’t laugh when he did… [there] was no reflection of spiritual warmth or fertile imagination. It was the flash of smooth steel, blinding but cold.” When Pechorin dismisses Maksim as unworthy of any attention, the enchantment is washed completely away, and we can finally justify our disgust for Pechorin.

    In the third story “Taman,” we get a glimpse into Pechorin’s own mind from his journal. The dignified importance he believes he has is acute in the way he holds himself above everything around him. Taman is “the most miserable dump,” he calls the mermaid girl “far from beautiful” even though he is willing to follow her into a boat, and he yells at his Cossack. He even judges people’s souls on their outward imperfections! “I admit that I’m greatly prejudiced against all the blind, squint-eyed, deaf, mute, legless, armless, hunch-backed and so on. I’ve observed that there’s always some strange relationship between the external appearance of a man and his soul, as if with the loss of a limb the soul too has lost some faculty of sensation.” (But wait, didn’t we agree when the narrator did the same thing in the second story?!)

    We get three very different accounts of Pechorin in each story we’ve read so far, but Lermontov did a splendid job in making each portrayal cohesive with the others. Each reader’s opinion will probably be slightly different, which really does make this a psychological novel from the points of view of narrator and reader.

  2. Jennifer Ridder
    February 25th, 2009 | 12:54 pm

    Lermontov cleverly uses rotating viewpoints to relate the story of Pechorin. This method inevitably describes the character in different ways and forces readers to appreciate him as whole, even if preferring one point of view to another. Through this method we see Pechorin as alienated from society but by his own choice. It seems that those who talk about him admire him even as he rebels against social conventions. He is unable to make friends, much to the chagrin of those try to be his friend. Pechorin makes it clear that he is happy to stand alone. In fact, when Pechorin is the commentator we continue to see him as a man who has a strong desire for personal freedom and ambivalent to life itself. He is content not to marry, have friends, or risk his life in a duel. His brooding manner combined with his magnetic attraction allows Pechorin to become the ultimate Byronic hero. He is man of contradictions, you at once love him for his perceptive nature and self-critical manner but also loath him, as he is an arrogant cynic with self-destructive behavior.
    Perchorin’s behavior is driven by a Romantic individualism that is at odds with contemporary societal and cultural norms. An irony confirmed by the title itself. Is Perchorin a hero? He does nothing remarkable other than have a grip on reality. Pechorin’s view of life, society, and human relationships is that he has no faith in human virtue, love, or friendship. He therefore takes a coldly detached view of the people around him, which often manifests itself in ironic / sarcastic remarks and black humor. And yet, we find him better for it, he does not get caught up in pithy societal norms. He is therefore a hero for his circumstance.
    It seems this is why the Narrator (who I assume to be Lermontov) envies him. Lermontov’s own ironic vision of questioning the very existence of ultimate truths and meanings pervade the novella. He raises questions of life and fate in the reader’s mind but frustrates the quest for answers. One desires a moral ending but Lermontov gives clues suggesting that none of the narrators are to be considered reliable; the final story (‘The Fatalist’) may be seen as Lermontov’s final refutation of the notion that literature ought to provide answers to moral questions. Therefore, we go full circle. His introduction gives a pessimistic view of the reader and ending continues to do so. Lermontov and his character Perchorin seem to be showing us that perhaps it not the fate of the reader to find a moral answer but rather the outcome is that of a total sense of ambivalence and uncertainty. And is it Perchorin’s comfort with this knowledge that makes him a readers hero or a hero of our time?

  3. Brett Basarab
    February 25th, 2009 | 4:59 pm

    The title of the novella, “A Hero of Our Time,” describes how most people Pechorin encounters perceive him. Pechorin’s friends, especially his fellow army officers, see him as a free spirit who is able to live life to the fullest. By not constraining himself to marriage or lasting relationships, Pechorin seems to live the life that most young people only dream of. As an army officer, he gets travel the world, have relations with many women and meet many interesting people along the way. In essence, Pechorin lives the romanticized idea of what military life should be like. Unhindered by the constraints most people have, Pechorin seeks whatever pleasures and thrills come about. As Maksim Maksimich says, “…there are people who, when they are born, the big book of life has it already written down that all sorts of amazing things will happen to them!” Maksimich is clearly slightly envious as he yearns for the life that Pechorin had.

    However, the driving message of the story is that Pechorin is really not a hero. Rather, Lermontov paints him as a tragic figure; his selfishness leads him to seek transient pleasures that do not fulfill him in the long run. We eventually learn that Pechorin has died after going off to Persia. Though we don’t know the circumstances, he dies young before living out a fulfilling life. Army officers young and old admire him because they want to live the life he had. However, Lermontov suggests that such a life can only end in tragedy. As Maksimich tells his story, we get a glimpse at Pechorin’s serious faults. He essentially kidnaps Bela in order to win her over, and only through a long, tearful struggle does she grow to love him. In the process, he severely wrongs Kazbich by conspiring with Azamat to steal his prized horse. Not only does Pechorin hurt others to get what he wants, but once he gets it, he quickly moves on. He soon loses interest in Bela, who has just grown to love him. She pines away as Pechorin goes off everyday hunting. Pechorin never appreciates Bela enough until after she dies, when he suffers for a long time. Earlier, he begins to show unhappiness with his lifestyle. He admits he has become bored with everything in his life, and nothing is able to perpetually satisfy him. Clearly, Pechorin’s life is not as romanticized as it may seem at first.

    Later on, we see Pechorin’s truly ugly character come out. It’s clear he wants no parts of Maksimich as he refuses to stay and talk for even an hour or two. Like everything else in his life, Pechorin has quickly moved on from Maksimich. Pechorin can never have a lasting friendship because he simply grows bored of the person in due time. Pechorin’s free spirit ends of hurting everyone he encounters; Maksimich is devastated by Pechorin’s dismissive behavior. In the final story, as Kaylen says, we see some of Pechorin’s terrible views come to light. The way he regards other people, especially the disadvantaged, illustrates his ruthless behavior. In the end, he pursues another relationship with the young girl he meets. Rather than allowing himself to fall in love, however, Pechorin threatens to disclose the girl’s smuggling operation. Again, since he only accounts for his own pleasure, Pechorin almost drowns the girl and ends up ruining the young blind boy’s life. Instead of being an innocent traveler, Pechorin manages to upset the lives of several of the people he meets along the way.

  4. February 25th, 2009 | 6:25 pm

    Two themes re-appear in the stories: the extraordinary and fate? What if anything makes Pechorin exceptional? Are the incidents in his life the result of fate? Does any of this absolve him of responsibility for his own actions?

  5. Kara Shurmantine
    February 25th, 2009 | 6:41 pm

    When reading A Hero of Our Time, it’s essential to keep in mind Lermontov’s stated purpose in writing the novel: social criticism. Though he proclaims his only idea was to paint a simple “portrait”—“please don’t imagine that the present author was ever vain enough to dream of correcting human vices”—the Author’s Preface clearly reveals Lermontov’s intentions. This portrait depicts not simply a single lost man, but rather “the vices of our whole generation in their ultimate development…. [P]eople have been fed on sweets too long and it has ruined their digestion. Bitter medicines and harsh truths are needed now…. [T]he malady has been diagnosed—heaven alone knows how to cure it!” Perhaps, therefore, may be best to treat the novel, besides as a work of literary merit, as Lermontov’s “diagnosis”: a sustained attempt to examine contemporary society, in all its moral filth, and uncover the secrets behind its vices—what conglomeration of experiences and feelings, doubts and prejudices could produce a society so profoundly flawed, a society as corrupt as Pechorin?

    I’m tempted to begin talking about Pechorin and his complicated hideousness, like everyone else has done so far and will probably continue to do, but besides the blaring social critique present in Pechorin’s character, Lermontov has sprinkled the text with myriad other critiques that I’d like to describe.

    First off, there’s the character of Maxim Maximych. I can’t tell how much of this character’s blatant sexism and xenophobia are contemporary norms that even Lermontov took for granted, or if Lermontov was sophisticated enough to create Maximych as a challenge to those backwards attitudes towards women and the Caucasus ethnic groups. However, I did find the paradox interesting between the narrator’s breathtaking, worshipful descriptions of the Caucasus mountains and his and Maximych’s contempt for the region’s inhabitants; no matter how lofty and beautiful the landscape, its people are no more than “savages.”

    When Maximych indifferently pardons Kazbich’s brutal and unjust murder of the Tartar chieftain, the narrator provides a tongue-in-cheek response: “this capacity of Russians to adapt themselves” to other peoples’ morality “does show a wonderful flexibility and that clear common sense that can forgive evil wherever it is seen to be inevitable or ineradicable.” Clearly the narrator does not see pardoning evil—an unpleasant habit of Russians, apparently—as a good idea, ever. Later, when impressed by the warm hospitality of some complete strangers, the narrator dryly remarks that he “learnt afterwards that they are paid and kept by the government on condition that they take in travelers caught by storms”: rather than a natural desire to care for others, these are businessmen, providing hospitality for the right price. A final bit of critique I noticed comes as Maximych describes the doctor’s care for the dying Bela: he shows up drunk and pointlessly heaps unnecessary concoctions and poultices on her already fatal wound, claiming, “I must keep a clear conscience.” Whether Bela lives or dies is not the issue for this so-called doctor. What matters is the empty actions of doing his job, so that he and others can see that he’s a real doctor, sober or no.

    In Lermontov’s eyes, this is a society of people whose intentions are not in the right place, and for whom morality is both optional and flexible.

  6. Harry Morgenthau
    February 25th, 2009 | 7:45 pm

    In my mind, Pechorin does not deserve a break from responsibility for his actions because of fate. In Taman, he certainly finds himself in extraordinary circumstances, but most of the things that happen to him can come down to his own fault. He is rude and impatient to the cossacks who greet him when he arrives and while they search for housing. Not listening to his hosts, and uninterested in waiting any longer, he chooses to stay in the strange house on the edge of town. While fate may lead him in this direction, it is Pechorin that actually makes the final choice.
    As the story progresses, strange things continue to happen to Pechorin, but it is the way he acts that causes him to have such a frightening experience at Taman. This fact is clear because Pechorin’s aide is placed in the same position that Pechorin is, but fails to experience any of the fright and excitement. The aide casually enters the house and sleeps soundly. During the day he cooks the tea and minds his own business. He does not get into arguments with the inhabitants of the house nor does he nearly get himself drowned. His situation is the same as his master’s is, but nothing happens to him.
    It is Pechorin’s curiosity and, especially, his aire of superiority that get him in trouble. As a Russian military officer, he is convinced that he is much better – in every sense of the word – than all of the people around him, and he makes sure to act accordingly. He follows the blind boy as if it is his right to know what the boy is up to. He continues to dig when he sees the girl and the hand off of the bundle that the boy carries, and he especially shows his contempt for these people when he blatantly accuses the boy and the girl of wrongdoing, having no idea what they have actually done. By alerting them of his knowledge of their acts before he really knows what they are doing, Pechorin leads the boy and the girl to become extra careful and secretive. The girl attempts to drown him, and the boy steals his dagger and sword. After it is all over, Pechorin knows nothing more than he did before, and he has nearly died in the process.
    It is fair to say that fate seems to play some role with Pechorin’s life, but it does so no more or less than it does with any other person. Situations are placed in front of us, and we make a choice how to act. Some choices lead down a calm road and some, like Pechorin’s, lead to a stormier path. Whatever the outcome, they are still human choices.

  7. Patrick O'Neill
    February 25th, 2009 | 9:38 pm

    Throughout these first three sections of the novel, I oftentimes actually found it rather difficult to keep track of which lens the reader was currently viewing Pechorin through. First and foremost, it remained rather unclear that Pechorin would be the focus of the novel and the character after whom it was named until Lermontov’s narrator (I have a copy translated and annotated by Nabokov and in the endnotes he implies that Lermontov himself is most likely the narrator) explicitly states that fact at the end of his “Introduction to Perhorin’s Journal.” Additionally, as I was reading I became immersed so much in the details and events of each story that the perspective drifted freely to the recesses of my mind. However, I am not implying a fault in Lermontov in that he is unable to keep his audience aware of such a fact but rather am more of the opinion that my skills as a reader are perhaps a little weaker than I previously thought.

    Setting that aside, my personal opinion of Pechorin did not really vary all that much throughout the different narrations. Instead I feel rather that the changing perspectives built off one another to offer a more and more complete and rounded view of the protagonist. Very much in the same way, one is able to get a fuller understanding of a single news story after reading or viewing several sources rather than a single one. The initial narration of Bela (on a cool little tangent, Nabokov makes a cool note in the annotation that her name in Turkish means ‘grief’) I believe serves to not only introduce us to the character of Pechorin but portrays him in the light of a dashing young fellow of much potential but possessing of too much cynicism towards life. At this point the reader is captivated by this charismatic and somewhat mysterious (maybe ‘odd,’ ‘eccentric’ or maybe even ‘extraordinary’ would be better terms here) character and expectations are high. However, Lermontov dashes this anticipation in “Maksim Maksimich” when the reader catches a brief glimpse of the man up close in person only to find that he treats his old friend poorly. Again, however, while a sour taste is left in the reader’s mouth as a result of Pechorin’s lack of courteousness and disregard for Maksim, Lemrontov once again raises expectations by bringing the reader to Pechorin’s diaries. In this manner, Lermontov softens the blow made by Pechorin by letting him in a way defend himself and through his journals tell his side of the story, so to speak, to hopefully reveal to the reader the journey through which he arrived at the Vladikavkaz and acted in such a manner towards his friend.

    While it did provide a captivating narrative driven by this eerie blind boy and Perhorin’s attempt and ultimate success at uncovering the secret behind his odd activities, I do not believe the narrative of “Taman” provided all that much insight yet into Pechorin’s character. However, I hope than once compounded with the remaining stories, we as the audience will be able to go back and extract further details on Pechorin to gain even more insight as to the type of man he truly is.

  8. Matthew Rothman
    February 25th, 2009 | 10:13 pm

    It seems at once easy to me to criticize Pechorin for shameless self-interest, manipulation, racism, and sexism. True, each story indicates that he possesses all of these traits, but Lermontov seems more interested in diagnosing the pathology that leads to the emergence of these traits in a people as a whole and than in presenting an individual that he wishes us to judge. Indeed, the author’s preface at the beginning reveals a conflict on which Lermontov will build throughout the stories. He indicates his contempt for the vices of the current generation, which he suggests he will personify in Pechorin, then challenges his reader to consider why Pechorin is so much more distasteful than other, more immoral protagonists in other works.

    The line that revealed to me that Pechorin must be more complex than he seems at first glance was in the second story, Maksim Maksimich. In describing Pechorin’s eyes, the author says, “[T]hey didn’t laugh when he did. [. . .] It’s a sign either of evil nature or deep constant sadness.” The Pechorin that the narrator encounters in Maksim Maksimich is a more reserved character than the Pechorin who kidnapped and manipulated Bela in the previous story. The narrator includes moments throughout the second story in which he questions whether Pechorin’s character flaws are deliberate or the result of some other, deeper cause. His journey to Persia, for example, when taken in the context of his comments at toward the end of the first story, indicate a sense of inner conflict in the character that I would argue relate strongly to the idea of fate that Professor Beyer mentions in Post 4. As a young man, Pechorin seems deeply aware of the future that awaits him as a discontented traveler.

    That the narrator reveals Pechorin died on his return trip from India colors my reading of the third story in a rather vexing way. In essence, I agree with Patrick in Post 7 that Taman provides little original insight into Pechorin’s character: to me, he seems the same impatient, hotheaded youth that Maksim encountered in the first story. I assume that the conclusion of the journal and subsequently the rest of the novella will provide greater clarity regarding the importance of Taman. To this point, however, Taman seems rather a letdown, particularly in the context of the introduction to the journal: Lermontov seemed momentarily ready to explore how Pechorin is bound to and perhaps even victimized by fate, but this idea seems to remain incomplete to this point in the work.

  9. Alexandra Boillot
    February 25th, 2009 | 10:19 pm

    “As we drift farther away from the conventions of society and draw closer to nature we become children again whether we wished to or not–the soul is unburdened of whatever it has acquired and it becomes what it once was and what it will surely be again.”

    I found this quote to be very central to the underlying meaning of the first three parts to A Hero of Our Time. The essential nature of children is that they never take themselves too seriously which is how humans act in nature but when placed inside the constraints of society, humans, especially those of the younger generation, assign themselves too much importance. Through the three perspectives of Pechorin you can see this corruption taking place throughout his life. In the first sequence, according to Maksim, Pechorin is portrayed as a unique man with good and bad qualities. However, Maksim emphasizes his goodness at first since they are good friends and Maksim respects him. But when Pechorin loses interest in Bela and basically says that he does not care, much respect is lost for him. This action of attaining things for his own pleasure, even if it means hurting others, and then becoming indifferent once the object is his is the typical action of a materialistic man who feels no fulfillment in life and instead latches onto material objects in the hope that they will make him feel whole, even though he ends up disposing of them when they don’t. Lermontov believes that society at this time is not fulfilling for humans and, therefore, creates an abundance of these empty souls looking for something to give meaning to their lives but in all the wrong places.

    In the second section where Pechorin is seen through the narrator’s point of view, he is shown as a man further changed by high society. He uses a very fancy carriage that is not practical for the treacherous paths he is traveling on and acts as though he is too good for his old friend, Maksim. Maksim bitterly says “how can we ignorant old fogies keep up with you haughty young men of the world?” after being snubbed by Pechorin and goes on to say that he has been changed by St. Petersburg society. The narrator’s description of his emotionless eyes further illustrates this empty man of high society.

    In Pechorin’s own journal, readers continue to be disappointed with his arrogance when he yells at the corporal to find him housing. He defends himself by saying he was tired but calling someone a “good for nothing” is not a result of fatigue, it is a result of taking yourself too seriously and believing yourself to be an authority. Ironically, this “good for nothing” tries to save him from a lot of trouble by discouraging him from staying at the “strange” house but Pechorin disregards him because how he does not find the corporal to be worth listening to.

    In each section Pechorin’s arrogance comes out even when the narrator of the story tries to hide it. Lermontov uses this character to show his readers exactly what is wrong with society at this time as Pechorin is a symbol for the corrupt society.

  10. Zachary Harris
    February 25th, 2009 | 10:26 pm

    I saw that fate played a big part in these stories. Mainly I saw this evidenced by the fact that the narrator is able to develop a grand story on Prochorin only because of his accidental encounters which allow him to meet Maksim on more than one occasion, and allow him to come into possession of Prochorin’s journals.

    I see fate as effecting Prochorin’s life as well, but to a far lesser extent, and I do not believe that we can use fate to excuse Prochorin of his less than noble actions. Prochorin is faced with some rather strange circumstances, such as being invited to a Caucasian wedding, staying in Taman at a very strange house, and meeting Maksim again at a remote outpost. Yet simply being in these circumstances doesn’t mean that one must act the way Prochorin did and commit sometimes awful actions.

    The strange circumstances Prochorin finds himself in allow him to manipulate a desperate Azamat to give over his sister to him. Yet it wasn’t fate that forced Prochorin to organize the kidnapping of Bela, but his own despicable desires. When Prochorin coincidentally reunites with Maksim at a remote outpost, fate leads him there. However, instead of spending time with an old friend, he is very cold to him and departs almost immediately. This is an example where fate actually gives him the opportunity to to good, to make Maksim happy by spending time with him, while he instead does just the opposite and turns an old man into a pessimist now distrustful of youth. Even in Taman, where fate certainly leads Prochorin to a strange hut of smugglers, his actions there too lead to harm. While he can be somewhat excused because of his ignorance, his questioning and threatening of the girl who lives in the house leads to the destruction of the stable situation that those people are living with, and lead the blind boy to despair over the change of events.

    I also believe that while fate does certainly play a part in these stories, the nature of Prochorin’s character makes this “fate” not as prominent as one would think. Prochorin, as he told Maksim while they were stationed at the same fort, is constantly bored and thus is constantly searching for new adventure to stimulate him. This will inevitably lead him to very strange situations that one could ascribe to fate. The way he acts in these situations is also often very immoral, which cannot be ascribed to fate but to his own decision making. His exceptional character cannot be used as a justification for Prochorin’s actions, and we must this fully blame Prochorin for the bad deeds he commits.

  11. Elise Hanks
    February 25th, 2009 | 10:44 pm

    Pechorin is first and foremost marked by his insatiability. He is never satisfied. The greatest pleasures and sorrows are practically ephemeral for him. He wants nothing more than to travel the world and be adventurous- although he admits that the world can hold nothing for him. Pechorin is a personification of disillusionment. He is enchanted or touched and then quickly tires of the stimulus.

    His physical description is most plaintively marked by his pedigree (obvious good grooming habits, attractiveness, and the evidence of aristocracy in his deportment) and his eyes. It is interesting that the narrator marks them as either eyes that are inherently “evil” or as eyes that experience “deep and constant sadness.” However, it should be noted that his description casts him as a devilish character. We have already established that he is never satisfied and is handsome with features that are almost dark and evil in nature. He has pale skin, views the world through “flashing” eyes usually half closed, and our attention is drawn to his affinity with ravines and the woods; he never tires, dogs bark at his presence, and he laughs mirthlessly at the death of his lover.

    This clearly Romanticized character is described alongside details associated with the devil or demons. It is interesting that for the first “tale” within the novel this occurs in this manner. With the second account of Pechorin we see an exact likeness as the narrator sees him (still nearly demonic, although markedly less so). Pechorin is an arrogant society man in this account. *Side note: yawning was, at this time period, associated to demonic possession. Just saying…* In this way we see that although the narrator moves to make him an average society man, normal in most ways, the author is working through him to retain Pechorin’s demonic identity.

    As for the third perspective that we see from Pechorin’s own writings, there are many references to the occult and demonic. The house exists without icons, the blind boy scurrying across rocks and ledges by night is uncanny, and the character of the “mermaid” is almost spectral in nature (and could even be likened to the ghost of the drowned daughter…) and is described as serpentine with unnatural strength (to struggle with a grown man in a small boat).

    These associations with evil and the demonic appear to only do one thing: cast Pechorin as the Byronic hero, a highly Romanticized one. He displays many of the traits central to a Byronic hero such as a seemingly high level of intelligence and perception , sophistication and education, he is mysterious, magnetic, and charismatic, he has the power of seduction and sexuality, he has emotional conflict, a distaste for social institutions/society, he is an exile/outcast (it is fitting that this is of his own will), he is critical and cynical, he cares nothing for rank/social order, and engages in self-destructive or reckless behavior. I look forward to reading more about the Hero of Our Time who is, in fact, and antihero.

    As he says himself:
    “What have human joys and sorrows to do with me?”

  12. Hannah Wilson
    February 25th, 2009 | 11:17 pm

    What I find most intriguing about Pechorin is his strange ability to be around when extraordinary things happen. The story of Bela is one of remarkable coincidence and strange occurrences. Bela is kidnapped in return for a horse (a very strange request, in my opinion), her kidnap was made possible by the fact that her father was absent for a couple of days, and it is only because of this kidnap that she meets Pechorin and falls in love with him. Her death was also a very strange occurrence. After being captured by Karbich, she was shot by the Maksim, who was trying to kill him. Throughout the entire story he is simply looking out for himself and he never pays any attention to the well-being of those around him. The most interesting thing about Pechorin is that he does not take offence when anything happens to him. He almost takes these extraordinary random occurrence as daily occurrences and does not make a huge deal of them. Pechorin’s experience at the Taman is also a series of random extraordinary coincidences. His need to be taken care of sends him to a shoddy part of town, the only place where you could possibly find a blind boy and other strange characters, including a girl who attempts to drown him. At the end of the strange events he simply think it would have been ridiculous to complain to the authorities because the event was so ridiculous.

    This series of coincidences may be construed as fate; however fate generally implies occurrences that occur without reason. What happens to Pechorin is much more related to karma. His whole affair with Bela is very immoral. Pechorin’s dishonestly in his relationship and general arrogance may contribute to the negative events in his life; however it cannot be considered fate. All of the decisions that caused his unhappiness are made by him, not some greater power. Fate would imply that the before he was born the world decided everything bad that was going to happen to him. And he seems very willing to accept that the things that happen to him, while ridiculous and unusual are in some way his fault. Thus far in the story we have not learned anything of the sort. Sure he is a rather arrogant and selfish character as Alexandra and others have pointed out, however for this to be his “fate” would be a strong assumption.

  13. Casey Mahoney
    February 25th, 2009 | 11:23 pm

    Clearly, Pechorin is no angel, but I feel that Lermontov’s story seeks to present a character that goes beyond “evil”–indeed, he names him a “hero.” In order to judge Pechorin in any moral sense, we need to investigate his intentions. Lermontov’s narrator tells us directly that this is no moralizing novel or fable, but a travelogue–a story of observations, conversations, descriptions; later, Maksim Maksimych makes a dissertation on the use of “year-old tidings” that are orally transmitted and stretched. Of course, as modern readers, we take these assertions with a grain of salt, yet when we receive a text that we are asked to view almost as primary and secondary historical documents, the necessary “investigation” is perhaps more straightforward than decoding a novel.

    Each of the three sections provide the reader with a less “processed” view of Pechorin, as each section removes a layer of narration. As we follow Pechorin away from the hub of Petersburg to the southern sea, Lermontov cedes judgment of Pechorin’s character to the reader by the end of the first half, only offering a few comments introducing the original diary text. By the end of Part I, we are reading the story void of the critical commentary of any narrator save Pechorin’s own. As no secondary narrator can influence the reader’s reaction, this allows the reader to identify with the so-called “hero” as much or as little as he or she wishes,

    That said, in the first author’s note, Lermontov invites the reader TO believe in the story, to perhaps allow him/herself to identify with Pechorin, in the conceit that perhaps one man might be able to alone embody all the vices of humanity. He also says that his purpose is not to sugar coat anything. Personally, I was able to identify with the “youthful energy” Prof. Beyer mentioned–Pechorin’s roguish wanderlust and haphazard moodiness, his readiness for an adventure (however much of his wardrobe might be necessary), his self-centered view of the world, and his confidence in his general carelessness about consequences. Of course, I don’t mean to claim that I too pass such harsh judgment on the physically handicapped on the level that Pechorin claims to. Instead, I do mean to assert that Pechorin’s first-hand confession of this vice does represent the prejudices that we all carry. I feel very strongly Lermontov wishes to point out that this is not an uncommon trait in most of us, as well.

    So far, we see the Caucasus was a place of retreat from the boringness of society and social battling of Westernized Russia (I am reminded of a senior Russian thesis oral presentation I attended last year on the same topic in saying this, though the author’s name [Peter?] escapes me…). As we come further away from the orthodoxy of Moscow and the social/moral pretentiousness of Petersburg, it seems Lermontov wants to give us an opportunity to explore how much of a Byronic romantic each of his readers can find in him or herself is vis-à-vis this great hero.

    (With a word to fate and the extraordinary, I feel that these are features of the story that are simply employed to create the circumstances in which Lermontov’s social commentary can take place.)

  14. Ashley Quisol
    February 25th, 2009 | 11:26 pm

    The irony of this book is fantastic and it slaps you in the face with the title naming Pechorin a hero. This despicable character, though romantically portrayed by his army buddy in the first section of the book, in soon revealed to be an embodiment of most things that are wrong with human nature.
    The first picture of Pechorin that Maxim paints for us id of a courageous and charismatic officer whose mischievous ways are endearing rather than deplorable. Maxim clearly holds Pechorin to a different standard than the other characters encountered in the Caucuses (a byproduct of Russian xenophopia that runs rampant through this novel?) and forgives his trespasses as necessary. A prime example of this is when Maxim rationalizes the theft of Bela by explaining that Pechorin loved her, while at the same time condemns Kazbich when he steals Bela. Maxsim makes this judgment despite the fact that Kazbich and Pechorin both met and courted Bela in essentially the same way.
    The romantic figure of Pechorin is abolished completely in the narrator’s direct contact with him. He is described as an inconsiderate ass who hurts Maxsim, a character who, by this point, we have grown to love. His young adventuresome taste for travel now seems to us selfish foolishness and I personally come to detest this character.
    Interestingly enough, the view of Pechorin through his own eyes isn’t much better. He is arrogant and foul, but what is worse is that, in his own journal, he seems to accept it as a fact of life. He is content with having no emotions and straight out writes that he dislikes the crippled.
    This separation from the human condition of emotion makes Pechorin an exceptional character. Though he showed great passion and love for Bela in the beginning, he eventually grows bored with his conquest and it is clear that the most exciting part of this new relationship was the chase rather than the outcome. Pechorin’s constant talk of boredom portrays his as a juvenile character with childlike curiosity and impatience. He places no importance on human relationships and leaves his life up to fate. Though acts of coincidence seem to lead him into extraordinary situations, they do not govern his life; he by chance found himself in the strange town of Taman, but it was not fate that led him to actively pursue the blind boy and his nocturnal activities. I’m sure that A Hero of Our Time will continue to offer us romantic scenes set in mist blanketed hills and cloud streaked skies and I look forward to seeing what kind of privileged adventure this egotistical “hero” will find himself on next, especially since the narrator mentioned that he dies coming home from Persia.

  15. Catherine Ahearn
    February 25th, 2009 | 11:31 pm

    This story is, by definition, the most “Romantic” story we have read thus far. The picturesque descriptions of the environment in which the story takes place and the way nature has a direct impact on the characters themselves is unparalleled by any of our previous readings. In this respect, Pechorin is the classic Byronic hero: conflicted, emotional, cunning, attractive, cynical, mysterious, and arrogant. The polarity of his character is something that defines him and yet, is something the reader senses is not under his control. As the story progresses and changes perspectives, we see him embrace his restlessness by becoming more lackadaisical about life and the weight meaning should bear upon the way by which one lives it.

    Bela is used by Pechorin in an attempt to finally quell his restlessness. It is after he toils for weeks to gain the love of Bella only to turn his cheek to her in the weeks to follow that the reader sees the scope of Pechorin’s insipid nature. It is through his effects on others that we see the fault in his way of life. First, Bela is driven to depression and eventually a forlorn death by Pechorin’s sudden rejection of her. When Maksim runs into Pechorin, he is terribly let down by the cold manner with which he is greeted and the ease with which Pechorin leaves his old friend for a land that is foreign to him and promises him nothing.

    It is this obvious disconnect from people that the different poaints of view in the story work best to communicate, for this is the most poignant aspect of Pechorin;s character. It is only natural for us to ask ourselves, “Why is Pechorin so bored? Is hunting wild boars, kidnapping your beloved, and traveling the world not enough? What can satisfy a man such as this?

    I do not see proof in this story that fate is thought to govern the lives of the characters in Lermontov’s novella. It does not appear as though Pechorin is the type of person who would leave his future up to “fate.” He is active in choosing the stepping-stones of his life and constantly keeps in mind the inevitability of death in a semi- nihilistic kind of way. He is self- destructive, he is bored, and he removes himself very carefully and consciously away from others. The result thus far has been generally negative, as he has left behind a trail of hurt companions. This is not fate, but self- actualization in the most negative sense.

  16. Lisa Eppich
    February 26th, 2009 | 12:06 am

    “The story of a human soul, even the pettiest of souls, can hardly be less interesting and instructive than the story of a nation, especially if it is the result of the observation of a mature mind and written without the vain desire to evoke compassion or to amaze.”

    In literature, we’re essentially dropped into the life of one person (or so), one person out of billions. But, can a story be made about anyone, in any situation, and still be any good? Generally, the author manipulates characters to serve the moral or social point he wants to get across, and generally characters have some kind of goals they themselves want to achieve but Lermontov’s Pechorin is the opposite of this.

    In one way Lermontov is no different from any other writer, as Pechorin is his way to demonstrate social ills. But at the same time, Pechorin is extremely interesting because we have a character who doesn’t actively want or seek anything out of life, even when fate gives him the chance to forge and re-forge relationships. So essentially, this story should be really boring because Pechorin has no goals nor wants, but the story isn’t boring because it’s written in such a way that we’re continuously drawing into looking for some way for Pechorin to redeem himself.

    This is especially true for how he’s portrayed in the first story, that even though he admits to his ennui, he still tried hard to court Bela and ultimately became very hurt after her death, making her so far the only character to have any real effect on him. After this, we look to see any development on this softer side, but we again see him as cold and distant in his refusal to form a friendship with Maksim Maksimich, even though it seems fate itself has intervened to give Pechorin another chance to form a bond with someone. In the third piece, Lermontov even tries to prod us into believing there is still something deeper in Pechorin, saying in the Introduction to the Journal, that P. is really brave for “so mercilessly laying bare his own weaknesses and vices.” However, he then goes into the quote I used at the very beginning, remind us that this is a very unique piece of literature because we have this anti-hero who has no purpose in and of himself, but to show us that perhaps this person who seems so awful is perhaps not that different from any one of us, and that all of us share in at least some of his characteristics in some point in our lives.
    And, while this story seems less relevant and overly-romantic now (which it is), societies in every generation could always stand to have a good look at themselves, if not for any other reason then to let us realize that we can’t always justify what we do no matter what excuses we try and come up with.

  17. Gabriel G Suarez
    February 26th, 2009 | 12:59 am

    In “The Eye,” Nabokov writes “I do not exist: there exist but the thousands of mirrors that reflect me. With every acquaintance I make, the population of phantoms resembling me increases. Somewhere they live, somewhere they multiply. I alone do not exist.” After reading “Bela,” this is what I felt about Pechorin. Even after reading “Maximus Maximich,” we’ve only encountered him first-hand for a few minutes. This man is a ghost, he is not a character in the traditional sense.

    In “A Hero of Our Time,” it seems that Lermontov is speaking more broadly than just Pechorin; he is speaking about the young men of his time. I feel comfortable saying this because Pechorin is at length described as a concept, not a person. He is only explored as a character in himself after we hear much about his capriciousness, his fleeting interests in everything, his charm and wit, but we experience none of this first-hand for more than sixty pages! These are all qualities general to a set of people, some will say young men, and are not supplemented by qualities specific to individuals. What I mean by this, is that in “Bela,” we hear nothing about Pechorin’s past, his family, his unique quirks–he is an everyman.

    Pechorin is a set of mirrors for a large part of the book. But in Taman’, we finally see him as a character, and find him to be effete and cruel. He admits that he is disgusted by the blind, sick, deaf, etc. etc. etc. He is overly concerned with matters that don’t involve him, not for the sake of correcting them, or advancing some notion of justice, but simply so that he can have an adventure. It makes sense, that as every generation grows older, they look upon the younger one as somehow weaker and less valuable. Such a condition was likely especially observable among the generation of Russians that witnessed Napoleon’s defeat, and it seems like Lermontov is commenting on this condition. What his thesis is, I haven’t yet figured out, but what I can say is the Pechorin we’ve seen so far is a character that strikes you immediately with his frivolity and indolence, yet captivates you. For some reason, he is interesting and deep once we read “Taman’.”

    Pechorin’s frivolity is the sympton of his search for something more sublime, more lasting. What this is, I’ll need to read more to say, but what I’ve gathered so far is that he might very well be running away from his past–we’ve heard nothing about it, except that he keeps venturing further and further away from, until he dies in Persia!

    One last thing I’ve noticed: it is clear that Pechorin lets everyone down whom he meets. Bela, Maximus, the young girl, all encountered Pechorin with certain expectations, only to be somehow betrayed.

  18. Sophie Clarke
    February 26th, 2009 | 12:59 am

    I find it surprising that some of the past bloggers have pegged Pechorin as a “romantic hero.” In fact, he is much more complex, and his character balances between two reappearing themes (credit to Tom Beyer): fate and exceptionality.
    It is true, Pechorin often seems to be exceptional. He is admiringly described as a “fine,” humorous man who braved all weathers to hunt, and was able to kill a boar with his bare hands. He even proudly says, that a “girl ought to be happy to have such a find husband as himself.”
    Jennifer Ridder correctly points out, that Pechorin’s behavior is often driven by “a romantic individualism.” And, Elise makes a good case for this, noting that “He displays many of the traits central to a Byronic hero such as a seemingly high level of intelligence and perception, sophistication and education, he is mysterious, magnetic, and charismatic, he has the power of seduction and sexuality…”
    However, we surely must assume the title of the story to be ironic and acknowledge that Pechorin is far from a Byronic or romantic hero. Pechorin flits between strongly taking hold of his destiny (like a Byronic hero would,) and avoiding responsibility for his actions when the time suits him. When he is no longer interested in Bela, he attributes his change of heart to his “unfortunate character,” which he blames on his upbringing, religion, wealth, and fate.
    If I remember correctly from my early Russian History class with Professor West, there is a second type of familiar character in Russian literature (eg. Eugene Onegin) called the superfluous man. Superfluous men have all of the passionate characteristics of Romantic men: they live in their own sentimental, subconscious while rejecting society and often reality. However, although these are strengths to the romantic hero, these characteristics are actually the root of the self-destructive behavior of superfluous men, like our “hero,” Pechorin. According to wikipedia, superfluous men are often so filled with ennui (As Lisa said) that “they cause distress to whoever occupies their attention” (as Pechorin did to both Bela and his neglected friend Maksim.)

    I thought the two themes came nicely together when Maksim described Pechorin:

    “But after all, there are people who, when they are born, the big book of life has it already written down that all sorts of amazing things will happen to them”

    Pechornin was so EXCEPTIONAL that he was able to convince Maksim that the amazing (terrible?) tragedies he was responsible for in his life were actually just his FATE, written down for him at birth.

  19. Ben Tabb
    February 26th, 2009 | 1:31 am

    At this point, it’s hard for me to write about any aspect of the prompt that hasn’t already been mentioned, but I’ll do my best. Like the other responses, I recognize that Pechorin is clearly an anti-hero, but a unique one. When I think of anti-heroes I envision someone evil in the typical sense of the word: one who enjoys doing wrong, or does evil things in order to achieve a selfish goal. In my mind, Pechorin doesn’t meet this criteria, as his actions don’t seem motivated by some selfish or evil plans, but rather simply by his boredom. As Elise mentioned, his actions are done out of disillusionment. He kidnaps Bela because he seeks something new to entertain him. He grows apart from her, because in his own words, he is becoming bored. He does not inquire about Maksim, because he finds the matter uninteresting. He follows the mermaid because he needs something to entertain him. Nothing can fulfill his life, and it is for this reason that he is the free-spirit that Maksim admires and the selfish prick the reader cannot like; he’s just looking for something that he can’t possibly find, and he doesn’t care about anything else.

    In the different tales describing his adventures, I could see the views of the narrators’ reflected a point that the narrator made (although it was meant to refer to the other members of the stories) “[T]hose mentioned in it will no doubt recognize themselves and perhaps find justification for deeds they have held against a man who is no longer of this world. For we nearly always forgive that which we understand.” From my own life, I know this to be true. At least for me, I can definitely say that the more I get to know someone, and therefore understand them, the easier it is for me to see through and justify their faults. Maksim is clearly the closest in the story to Pechorin, and believes, whether it’s true or not, that he has the best understanding of him. Maksim is also the most forgiving of Pechorin, and finds ways to justify his actions. Through his scope, he is able to make Pechorin seem like an okay, though certainly not spectacular, human being. It’s easy to criticize Maksim for not seeing what is clear to the audience: that Pechorin is a no-good punk, but we have never met the character, and therefore know little of the redeeming qualities that make him likable. I know that I have friends that from a distance may not seem like great people, I recognize their appeal as people, and appreciate them for their better qualities. Maksim’s view of Pechorin has made me reevaluate my views of people close to me. Perhaps I, like him, can’t see the forest for the trees.

    The narrator’s view of Pechorin appears to be more complex. It’s hard to tell yet how he feels, considering that we have no yet finished half the book. He appears intrigued by Maksim’s tales of Pechorin, but doesn’t seem fond of him when he actually meets him. The narrator clearly does not get as close to Pechorin as Maksim, but through his brief encounter, Maksim’s story, and Pechorin’s own journal, it is clear that he has a feel for the man. To me, both the most and least telling part of the story about his view of Pechorin, are in the introduction to Pechorin’s journal. At the end of the introduction the narrator first admits that the title refers to Pechorin, then understands that the reader will view it as irony, only to then say “I do not know about that.” While the preface makes it very clear that Lermontov believes the title to be irony, it is unknown to us what exactly the narrator is trying to portray. To me, it seems the narrator is rather uninterested in Pechorin’s character, and more interested in his stories. I view the title as him making the point that to many people Pechorin may appear a hero, though he does not neccesarily condemn this view. At best, I think the narrator is conflicted, at worst, he just doesn’t seem to care. He lays the story out for us to decide, and it’s pretty obvious to see what the readers think of him.

  20. Natalie Komrovsky
    February 26th, 2009 | 1:48 am

    This idea of Pechorin being a hero is fascinating to me. I think this is a satire, as Pechorin is far from being a hero. After reading the author’s preface, it seems to me that Pechorin simply represents a number of qualities that Lermontov sees in his generation. These qualities are seen as desirable by this generation, and although no one has all of them, Pechorin is supposed to represent what they hold dear. In doing so, he is illustrating how an entire generation’s values are misplaced and maladjusted.

    The first tale is told through Maksim’s eyes. We get a picture of Pechorin as being a little bit odd, and risky, but ultimately a good companion (though not a loyal one). When Azamat starts a brawl against Kazmich, Maksim wants to go, but Pechorin wants to stay and observe. However, eventually Maksim convinces him to leave. Though he is interested in that which is not his business, he is ultimately convinced to leave. When he makes his deal with Azamat, we see him as misguided, but also somewhat desperate. He stands to gain something he supposedly cares about. Maksim tries to convince him to allow Bela to return to her village and father, but to no avail. In the end of this story, we essentially see him as a decent person with mixed up priorities on the wrong path.

    In the second story, we see how cold and cruel Pechorin really is when he snubs Maksim, leaving him in tears. The reader truly feels for Maksim, who is deeply hurt by Pechorin’s coldness.

    The third story essentially gives us confirmation of what an awful person Pechorin is. He describes Taman as being a miserable, disgusting place, yells and demands a place to sleep, even if there isn’t room, and sticks his nose in someone else’s business. He has no problem throwing a young girl overboard or listening to a poor blind boy’s tears. Not that these characters are completely innocent, but he had this all coming to him. He didn’t need to spy on the boy or harass him in order to find out what was going on. I guess what goes around comes around, as his saber and dagger were stolen.

    I think the best quote describing Pechorin was when the narrator said he was struck by “the ability of this Russian to reconcile himself to the customs of the peoples among whom he happens to live.” Pechorin “forgives evil” when necessary, and essentially adapts himself to whatever situation arises to get what he wants, using evil mechanisms to achieve his goals.

  21. Stewart Moore
    February 26th, 2009 | 2:21 am

    Through each section we gain a better understanding of the Pechornin, whom Maskin calls strange. Indeed Pechornin is strange. The first short tale introduces us to Pechornin on a slightly negative note. It was easy to sympathize with Bela and look down upon Pechornin, because not only were the circumstances of the tale dictated by his thieving and plotting action but also he proceeds to ignore this woman who he has basically kidnapped. Maskin also tells how Pechornin knows his mannerisms are strange. For example he cannot be happy in one place after a certain amount of time; he always wants a new sun. And when Bela dies, he appears to be completely unaffected, seeing this as a kind twist of fate now that he doesn’t have not break Bela’s heart.
    Pechornin’s coldness and inability to have normal social relationships continues to expand in the next story, told directly from the narrator’s view. In this story we see a pompous aristocratic figure who refuses to acknowledge his old friend. Pechornin has a young yet incredibly self-centered aura about him. The first two stories made me define Pechornin as a haughty, soulless young man. I came to pity him, because he lacks meaningful relationships with anything; he is completely isolated from other people and in general the world around him. These seemed to be somewhat typical tales of the follies of youths.
    In the third section, through Pechornin’s eye’s changes our view entirely. Here we learn that Pechornin actually feels bad for disrupting a small smuggling operation run by the types of people he would normal label as scum. For a brief second Pechornin has a heat, when he realizes his actions had heart breaking effects on people other than himself. However he soon reverts back to his cold state.
    Using all three narratives we have a large scope of Pechornin as a character. So far we haven’t read long enough stories to allow for character development quite like this.

  22. Susanna Merrill
    February 26th, 2009 | 9:39 am

    I agree with Lisa that a central passage in this story is the narrator’s observation that “The story of a human soul, even the pettiest of souls, can hardly be less interesting and instructive than the story of a nation, especially if it is the result of the observation of a mature mind and written without the vain desire to evoke compassion or to amaze.”

    What is striking about the story, in relation to this statement, is that Pechorin himself is represented as this mature mind, willing to observe himself with cool objectivity. He is interesting (though repellent) is that he is not only thoughtless and selfish, but recognizes his selfishness, and he admits readily that his emotions and motives are not those generally admired. We see this already in “Bela,” when Pechorin responds to Maksim Maksimich’s rebuke of his neglect of his young bride/concubine with the ready admission that “if I cause unhappiness to others I myself am no less unhappy,” followed by a brief autobiography of dissipation and boredom. The indifferent self-awareness of this speech is unmatched even by Pechorin’s journal, though of course that journal does give the reader substantial confirmation of Maksim Maksimich’s impression.

    There are few things more infuriating than someone who admits a problem but refuses to address it. In this, Pechorin is a singularly unlikable character, kept from the grotesque only by his youth, charm, and physical beauty. This latter point, however, is what makes Pechorin a compelling character: as witnessed by the credit Pechorin gets for his youth and beauty, every human being shares, to a large extent, Pechorin’s prejudices, inclination to selfishness, dissatisfaction with what should be satisfying, impatience with tiresome old acquaintances, etc. Most people, however, attempt to overcome those flaws, or at least are more reticent about admitting them. We may be unwilling, for instance, to admit that Pechorin’s youth and beauty have any bearing on our attitude towards him, though it seems clear that without those qualities he could not sustain, even nominally, his role as hero of the story.

    This grand and fragmented portrait of Pechorin, then, is an unusual opportunity to see humanity unclouded by self-delusion as it its faults. Pechorin deceives neither himself nor others. In this respect, this “hero of our time” is an invaluable literary character, though a useless human being.

    I just realized that this does not address the question about fate at all. Oh well, I discussed how Pechorin is exceptional, and I think this exceptionality creates his fate.

  23. Matthew Lazarus
    February 26th, 2009 | 9:42 am

    What a fascinating character Lermontov has created in Pechorin. We are first introduced to him by a reserved Maksim Maksimich – a much more reserved Maksim than we see later on, when he is completely shut down by an unenthused Pechorin. At this very early point in the novel, the relationship between the unnamed initial narrator and Maksim still hangs in the balance. It will soon take shape through their mutual fascination with/the conversations they have concerning Pechorin. The reserved Maksim reveals all at once a dense collection of sweeping semi-anecdotes about Pechorin, painting him as almost a mystical character of Caucasian folklore – he could spend days in the freezing cold but a draft would cause him distress, he at one time killed a boar, etc. Already we see his personality dictated by extremes shifts, and these are what make him so intriguing. We truly believe that he is, as Maksim says, destined for amazing things, as quickly as we notice in ourselves that we are not of Pechorin’s kind and thus not one of those chosen amazing people.

    Pechorin could be a called a lot of things. Chauvinistic. Distinguished. Independent. Disillusioned, a big umbrella one. I would say he has a very selective personality, one he keeps shrouded in layers of intrigue and borderline asshole behavior. He has the naturally occurring superiority complex of a man in the mountains traveling alone who at one time lived extravagantly, engaging with high society, finding love, experiencing the pleasures of wealth, but ultimately becoming bored. He definitely walks around with a significant chip on his shoulder, for he has already experienced so much of life, and so much disappointment. He’s not just some heartless hunting man though. I believe he did love Bela, however briefly and however impulsively, as he calls her “exquisite” upon seeing her (kind of what you’d call a painting or a passage of text but let’s forget about treating women with respect for a second), but nevertheless he is capable of channeling and apportioning amorous feelings when it suits him. When the mermaid kisses him on the boat, he “embraces her with all his youthful passion.” He’s got it. What he doesn’t have – stoop to having, he might say – is much sensitivity. Sure, he stays by Bela’s side after she is fatally wounded, and he kisses her and transitions her into the afterlife in a relatively admirable way, but the narrator was right to note that it was probably better for everyone that Bela died in this way, for Pechorin was bound to get bored of her. Did he really love her when she was dying? Or was he just going through the motions of what he knew would please her in that moment? He’s a hunter – a very defining character trait in my mind – and it is likely that his possibly calculated possibly improvised seduction of Bela was the peak of his satisfaction with her. To say she was free to leave only to have her burst into tears and throw her arms suddenly around him… I bet he derived satisfaction there.

    I almost didn’t like being given access to Pechorin’s notebook; although I had enjoyed the deconstruction of his initial portrayal in the early parts of the conversation with Maksim, I still didn’t want to hear his actual voice. I wanted to craft a voice in my own head, trying to understand in retrospect what his motivations in life may have been. In the third story, we learn that Pechorin is the kind of guy who would throw a hot mermaid off a boat. Admittedly his pistol was gone and he was feeling somewhat threatened and uncomfortable being out on the water like that, but still, he has his priorities straight. The last sentence of this section was bittersweet: “And, after all, what have human joys and sorrows to do with me, an officer who travels around on official business!” OK Pechorin, go ahead, dismiss feelings, go with your official business. You’ll come crawling back.

  24. Adam Levine
    February 26th, 2009 | 10:25 am

    “He is only explored as a character in himself after we hear much about his capriciousness, his fleeting interests in everything, his charm and wit, but we experience none of this first-hand for more than sixty pages!”

    This statement, from Gabriel’s post, identifies a crucial phenomenon within “A Hero of Our Time,” and can be connected to the theme of fate and personal agency. The narration of this novel is immediately striking in its ability to imitate, as closely as possible, the nature of an oral tale. By allowing the narrator to recount a story of a story, Lermontov preserves the malleable, unraveling quality of a spoken tale, including the usual digressions and questions that accompany such conversations. At one point in the first “story” or “chapter” (however one wishes to perceive it), the narrator directly addresses his reader, saying, “But perhaps you would like to know the ending of Bela’s story? In the first place, it is not a novella I am writing, but traveling notes; consequently, I cannot make the junior captain tell the story before he actually began telling it. Therefore, wait a while…” (Like Patrick, I own Nabokov’s translation, 40 – 41). This passage becomes wholly representative of the thematic recurrence of fate, since the narrator – in keeping with the oral style of the narrative – will not, in fact “cannot,” skip to a later moment in order to finish Bela’s story; it is not within his control. This disregard of a narrator’s personal agency nicely connects back to the nature of oral tales: the narrator must wait for Maksim Maksimych to tell the story of Pechorin, and we must wait for the narrator to do the same, thus further giving the novel a sense of immediate occurrence that accompanies speech but can be difficult to achieve in a written text. Therefore, Lermontov’s use of narration reflects the ideas of providence and agency not only inherent within Pechorin’s personal perspective, as many have identified, but also within the general nature of oral tales.

  25. Alicia Wright
    February 26th, 2009 | 11:46 am

    Pechorin is, no doubt, a multi-dimensional character. “We are all destined to go our several ways”…not separate but several, according to Pechorin. It seems as though he is beyond the narrator’s control, and lends its complexity of this kind to the problem/duplicity of narration.
    I can’t think of the exact word to describe Pechorin…but I will, and will re-post when I grasp things more clearly.

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