19th Century Russian Literature


The Queen of Spades

This is a complex tale that has spawned a Chaikovsky opera (sometimes know even in English under the French title Pique Dame] and several films. The inclusion of the card game (faro) opens a whole new world of associations. You will find several useful and entertaining  links below, but at the end of the day you must read the story and comment on it. Watch carefully the role of numbers, the city, time, the physical framing of characters (windows, chairs, coffins), coincidence. Is this romanticism or realism (but be sure to define those terms for yourself and your fellow readers)?

Stranger than Fiction? Man accused in North Carolina ‘scaring’ death pleads not guilty.

Saint Germain

Deck of Cards Song (Text)

The Game of Faro (History)

The Opera (Listen)

The Film

The Russian  Пиковая дама.


  1. Kaylen Baker
    February 22nd, 2009 | 11:33 am

    Numbers appear everywhere in this story and of the most common numbers, (1, 3, 7, and 12), 1 appears about 24 times and 3 appears about 16 times. (I counted “some one” as a number, because I think the numbers represent characters. You decide if that’s cheating). The other numbers are used as a broth to mix the important numbers into, to distract and add a tasty element. The number 3 signified that the Countess would trick Herman on his third round of faro, while the number 1 and the Ace foreshadowed the wrong card, and represented the one, lowly man, the “some one,” beat by the Queen.

    What’s more interesting than the numbers here is the wording that Pushkin cushions around the numbers. The first night of gambling, Herman says, “The tray wins.” The importance of this phrase is false foreshadowing; Pushkin uses subliminal wording to allude to the outcome of the third round of faro, as if egging us on to believe Herman will win three times.

    The Queen represents the Countess, obviously. At the funeral, Herman looks at the Countess in her coffin, where, “it seemed to him that the rigid face returned his glance mockingly, closing one eye.” Again when he loses at faro, “as he stared at the card it seemed to him that the queen winked one eye at him mockingly.” But before this happens, the dealer tells him, “Your Queen is killed.” Here “Killed” is ironic, since Herman killed his Queen with shock. In the end, “it was not the ace he had selected, but the Queen of Spades.” So Herman with his own hand allows the Queen to have the last laugh, while dooming himself to shocked insanity, which in his case is probably worse than death.

    One website said spades are “the leaf of the cosmic tree, representing life” and “the power of darkness.” Another website says: “Queen of Spades: This spade card represents a dark-haired woman who could be either a friend with much common sense or a business rival. If she is next to the ace, nine or ten of spades, she may be a widow,” and “Although spades aren’t negative cards, they do point to areas of responsibility or where watchfulness is recommended.”


    Irrelevantly, one line that I absolutely loved in this story, because of its ambiguity, was when Herman was given the instructions from Lisa to escape from the house: “The young man pressed the cold, inert hand, then went out.” Did he press Lisa’s hand, which was “cold and inert,” because she is grieved and terrified? Or as he crossed through the Countess’s chamber on the way out did he squeeze her hand, which is “cold and inert,” because it’s dead? And did he then choose the Queen of Spades with the same hand?

  2. Brett Basarab
    February 22nd, 2009 | 9:07 pm

    “The Queen of Spades” is ultimately about Herman’s tragic fall, which is a direct result of his greed and hunger for wealth. The film, to reinforce this point, portrays Herman as power hungry from the outset. Meanwhile, I got the sense that in the story, Herman is simply overly curious and wants to find out the compelling secret of the magic cards. At the beginning, Herman seems to be a straight-laced army officer. He never gambles so as not to get himself into trouble. In the end, however, his curiosity turns to desire and his quest takes a turn for the worst. What makes this story special, though, is the way in which Herman meets his downfall. Herman decides to place complete faith in the ghost of the Countess; listening to the ghost’s words causes Herman to lose huge sums of money and go insane.

    The ghost scene interests me so much because it seems to portray how Herman loses his grip on logic and rationality. Herman had just caused the death of the ghost he saw, and he had to suspect that the ghost of the Countess would be out to exact its revenge. Herman readily admits that he is probably responsible, saying that “I believe that I was the cause of her death.” Looking back at the story, one has to think that the ghost may have been lying to Herman or at least deceiving him in order to set him up for failure. Tomsky previously explained that the Countess had only divulged the secret to one person, and it was clear she had no intention of letting the secret spread around. Earlier, too, he loses his grip on reason when he threatens the Countess with his pistol. Since the sight of the pistol causes the Countess’ death, this is Herman’s first step towards his downfall.

    Furthermore, one could argue that Herman chooses the queen of spades in the end because he is losing his grip on reality. Pushkin insinuates that Herman’s choice was a mistake, so it seems as though Herman was getting too caught up in his own success. The number three is important here. It seems to symbolize that after two rounds of success, Herman becomes overconfident and begins to make mistakes. Throughout the story, Herman’s ambition goes to his head, and he is unable to make good decisions. The thought of winning completely preoccupies his mind as “all his ideas merged into a single one: how to turn to advantage the secret paid for so dearly.” Finally, the image of the Countess in her coffin is striking in that a similar image returns in the form of the queen of spades card. The Countess eventually returns in the form of the card to exact her revenge on Herman.

  3. Harry Morgenthau
    February 22nd, 2009 | 9:40 pm

    In the story, Pushkin does not stay with one singular literary style, but instead seems to combine certain elements of both realism and romanticism. For the romantic side, Pushkin creates the epistolic relationship between Hermann and Lisa, Hermann’s great desire for success, the wonderfully tantalizing prospect of the three perfect cards, and even Hermann’s drunken encounter with countess’s ghost. Following the lead of Belkin’s Tales, we can almost predict how the story will end – Hermann will learn the secret, win the money, and happily marry Lisa.
    But while the story has these romantic elements, it turns suddenly and surprisingly, taking on a different tone. Hermann actually feels the angst that Pushkin only superficially describes in The Amateur Peasant Girl, and his relationship with Lisa is not a smooth or happy one. His describes the countess as she is, an old woman. He does not soften the image to make it more palatable. Throughout the entire story his language lacks flowery touch, and instead focuses on telling things clearly.
    The characters, too, have a very different feel to them compared to the characters of Belkin’s Tales. While the characters of Belkin’s Tales seemed too often to be single dimensional, focused individuals, Pushkin gives the men and women of the Queen of Spades a surprising depth. We see Lisa’s view of Hermann evolve as the story unfolds, pulling us through a large range of emotions. The Countess is harsh and cold, a surprising contrast to the either meek or nonexistent old women of Belkin’s Tales. Pushkin is not afraid to show a truer side of his characters. He provides us with shockingly real people.
    The potency of Pushkin’s combined realism and romanticism is felt most strongly in the sudden and terrible ending to the story. So close to his final goal, Hermann is struck down by the old maid and led to lunacy. Struck down by an impossible imaginary twist of fate, he is confronted with the very real and human problem of failure. His sudden demise leaves us all fully aware of the follies and shortcomings of men, and makes us promise ourselves to never do the same.
    By combining elements of realism and romanticism, Pushkin creates an even more potent understanding for the reader, and a text with much more depth.

  4. Catherine Ahearn
    February 22nd, 2009 | 11:26 pm

    Romanticism for me is fundamentally a rejection of science and rationalization and a movement toward emotion and the sublime in nature. Like authors such as Poe, Pushkin uses the supernatural in his romantic tale to comment on the irrationality of the human psyche. The same story could be told in a very rationalistic sort of way, however, Pushkin chooses to tell the story in a way that makes us question weather Hermann is insane or not. The course of events are not recounted with doubt, in other words, the narrator does not say, “Hermann thought he saw the ghost of the Countess,” but rather that he did see her and not only that, but that he spoke to her.
    To question the apparition of the ghost would mean a necessary discussion on the role of luck in the story. If Hermann had not actually seen the ghost, was it just luck that made him win the first two card games? And if it was, was his insanity a way for him to cope with his losses by blaming another, or did the Countess teach him a lesson? If this were truly a realist story, I do not believe that these questions would arise form the text because there would be no ambiguity to address.
    The goal of realism to portray things “as they are” is not only fundamentally flawed but is also based upon the assumption that things can only be one way. Which point of view would a realist text then take? Would Hermann have really seen the dead woman blink at him? Or was this just his conscience playing a trick on him? The text is ambiguous, it leaves this decision to the reader and is then not faithful to the realist genre, but to the romantic, or some could argue surrealist, camp instead.
    Another aspect of dimension and interpretation in the text stems from Pushkin’s use of gematria. Certain numbers and colors are given meaning in their relation to character, space and time. Although the significance of these assignments may never full be understood, they add an element of extended meaning and extra room for interpretation on the reader’s part.
    Seems like Pushkin was in on this “secret jewish system”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NKQQGp38yQ

  5. Jennifer Ridder
    February 23rd, 2009 | 11:13 am

    Many of Pushkins characters are guided by accidents that put the protagonist at a crossroads of opportunity which determine the outcome of the plot. In the Tales of Balken, these accidents occur by the hand of a supernatural force, such as luck or vengeful spirits. For example, in “The Snowstorm”, the powers of the snowstorm and the happy accidents or missteps that occur because of it guide the characters to their destiny. It seems that accidental and uncontrollable forces play a hand in the plot. However, the appeal of the story of Pushkin’s “The Queen of Spades” is that he changes the force of the accident and brings focus on the individual. The passion of the characters, particularly Herman, transforms the event of the accident to a self-chosen fate.
    The accident in “The Queen of Spades” is primarily that of Herman drawing a queen of spades rather than an ace. However, the first accident occurs as Herman enters the Countess’s house. Pushkin uses language that describes Hermann’s arrival as brought about by, “some unknown force…drawing him towards it.” A force is bringing him towards the danger that lies within the house and the disastrous events to follow. In the second accident, the force that brings the accident can be seen as a legitimate outside presence that dictates the Herman’s fate. A ghost of the Countess appears to tell him the secret of the cards. She declares that she has “come to [him] to you against [her] my will…but I am commanded to gratify your request.” The ghost of the Countess clearly shows that her appearance is involuntary, indicating that an imposing force guides even the Countess and brings the causes of the second accident.
    Nevertheless, despite the ability to ascribe the action of the story to unnatural powers, it seems that Pushkin still lays fault on the characters themselves and allows for a more individually chosen fate. Herman obsesses over his desire to know the card secret. However, every time Herman fixates over something, Pushkin shows us that the object of his desire presents itself to him. Herman “dreamed of cards, a green table, heaps of banknotes, and piles of cold coins.” His fantasies allow him to scheme and conjure the events to follow. Despite his delusions, Herman is still a man of emotion and conscious action. After causing the death of Countess, Herman is so distressed that he is, “unable to stifle the voice of conscience altogether”. In this inconsolable and guilty state he is approached by the Countess’s spirit. He sees apparition as a symbol of forgiveness as she has told him the secret of the cards. In his excitement the again obsesses over the cards, “Three, Seven, ace never quitted his head, and constantly moved on his lips”. As Herman begins to win, he losses the guilt and zeal that brought him to play in the first place, he accepts his winnings “without showing the least surprise”. Herman believes that everything is falling into place. Fate is leading him in the right direction. In the last bet, Pushkin omits feelings of emotion from Herman, as Herman assumes he will win. However, upon the last bet, Herman looses. It seems that Pushkin is showing us that the previous accidents have been manifestations of Herman’s passion, but when nothing is manifested, he draws the wrong card. Therefore, the accident was well caused by the character himself and not some super-natural force.

  6. February 23rd, 2009 | 11:39 am

    “Two fixed ideas cannot exist in the brain at the same time any more than
    two bodies can occupy the same point in space.”

    I have found that this assertion by Pushkin applies to many aspects of life,a s well as to the story. Does his intoxicated, often rambling thoughts vacillate back and forth from the Old Lady-Queen to the Ace? And were the three cards already implanted in his own subconscious through out the story?

  7. Anonymous
    February 23rd, 2009 | 12:59 pm

    “The Queen of Spades” should be categorized as a very clever realistic, not romantic, story. I think the requirement for a romantic story is that some kind of outside force drives it. Superficially, this seems to be the case in the Queen of Spades. When the old countess appears to Herman, she refers to this greater force and says,

    “I have come to you against my will, but I was commanded to grant your request”

    And, Herman’s actions appear to be driven by this supernatural force: the winking countess in the coffin, the magic cards, and finally, the winking queen of spades.

    However, when read more closely, it is obvious that there is no supernatural force that drives the story. Instead, it is the realism of Herman’s own greed and desire that dictates his actions and eventually drives him to insanity. And, the coincidental, seemingly-supernatural, events in the story can be explained away by Herman’s obsession and lunacy.

    1. After Herman scares the countess to death, he presses the countess’s cold inert hand, as if remorseful. Also, before the countess’s funeral, Herman is described as “pale as that of the copse itself.” These are the actions of a man so overcome by grief, remorse, and shock that he imagines a dead countess winking at him.
    2. The narrator clearly dismisses the countess appearing to Herman that night as a hallucination. He is described as drinking heavily to “stifle his emotion. [But] the wine only served to stimulate his imagination.” So, the apparition of the countess that night was merely his imagination: the combination of his emotions and alcohol.
    3. The numbers he is “given” by the countess are fabrications of his own. If you read the story carefully, as did some of the previous posters, you can find numerous examples of home Herman may have been subconsciously thinking of those numbers.
    4. The fact that Herman is virtuous the first two nights is not proof for the truth of the numbers, rather pure mathematical probability. According to various websites, the probability of winning in Faro was about 1:1. It is not so rare then, that Herman won the first two rounds.
    5. When Herman looses, the strength of his emotions overcome him again and, again, it “seemed to him” that the queen winked. By this point, however, Herman has gone crazy. He proceeds to speak “involuntarily” and eventually is confined in a hospital, still obsessed with his own fabricated tale.

    If this story were romanticism, it would be nothing more than a captivating fairy tale. When taken as realism, however, it becomes a complex story about a careful man, who despite his motto to never “sacrifice the necessaries of life for uncertain superfluities,” does just that when he becomes obsessed with the prospect of infinite riches.

  8. Sophie Clarke
    February 23rd, 2009 | 1:00 pm

    anonymous is me by the way. Sorry

    (Sophie Clarke)

  9. Susanna Merrill
    February 23rd, 2009 | 2:58 pm

    I just looked at the Russian version to which Prof. Beyer posted the link, and I am very confused– it’s about twice as long, and includes all sorts of things not in the Gutenberg text, like the old woman telling Hermann to mary Liza, and the personifications in which Hermann imagines the numbers of the cards, and Liza getting married at the end and having a ward or her own.
    Is the Gutenberg version abridged?

  10. Ashley Quisol
    February 23rd, 2009 | 3:21 pm

    The concept that “two fixed ideas cannot exist in the brain at the same time” is an integral factor in each of Pushkin’s short stories distinguishing them from the average trivial anecdotes that they, at first sight, appear to be. Writing with his ending constantly in mind, he was allowed to include twists and specific details that only make sense when revisited with the knowledge of the conclusion.
    A year ago the first time that I read “The Queen of Spades,” the inclusion of numbers throughout the story went quite unnoticed and I thought the plot to be a bit arbitrary. But now, after keeping the numbers in mind, Pushkin’s genius for layering the story was evident and appreciated. His (what I originally thought to be rambling) thoughts did vacillate between the “Queen” and the “Ace” beginning with her story of desperation, and ending with his demise and her death.
    I also found it interesting that he used the Count of St. Germain as the benevolent character who gives the secret of the cards to the Queen. He is portrayed as a god-like figure, judging whether or not she was worthy of redemption. She passed the “test,” only using the trick to gain back what had been lost and then, abandoning the game, resumes her normal life. On the other hand, Herman, the picture of evil in this story, murders the trick out of the grandmother and uses it to augment his fortune. This series of sins eventually leads to his downfall and the posthumous triumph of the “good” queen. (His character also looks a lot more evil in the video clip…so maybe that’s where I’m coming from.)

  11. Kara Shurmantine
    February 23rd, 2009 | 3:42 pm

    “Two fixed ideas cannot exist in the brain at the same time any more than
    two bodies can occupy the same point in space.”

    This observation resounds with me strongly and produced in me the most powerful impact of any one assertion in Pushkin’s stories. Like Professor Beyer pointed out, it can apply not only to the story, but to life in general. I see in this statement a description of the often-fatal lack of connection between two ideas, two individuals, two separate entities. Coexistence is so frequently impossible. When two ideas occupy a mind, they can collide and unpleasantly contradict one another; when two bodies occupy a space, the result can be disharmony and disaster.

    Every time two individuals are alone in a room in “The Queen of Spades,” devastation occurs. When Herman sneaks up on the Countess alone in her bedchamber, she is literally scared to death. When he bursts upon the innocent Lizaveta in her room, the result is “terror” and “disgust,” with Lizaveta weeping “bitterly” and “trembling violently.” Eventually, the effect of her feelings for the soldier and the disturbing nature of this encounter result in her dramatic faint at her guardian’s funeral and the complete dissolution of all potential relations between the two—relations that could have ended more harmoniously, with a pleasant marriage (something that would have occurred elsewhere; in a French novel, for instance). Herman’s terrifying and solitary encounter with the Countess’s apparition has the immediate reaction of freaking him out, and the more long-term reaction of consigning him to a mental hospital, obsessed with images of a mysterious, ghostly “Queen.”

    Every time two ideas attempt to occupy a single mind, notably Herman’s, the result is disaster. The two thoughts crowded in Herman’s brain—that of the ace and the phantom Queen of Spades—that produce Pushkin’s assertion similarly cause anguish and devastation. He perhaps subconsciously confuses the two, torn by the guilt of his indirect murder and the greed for an impending fortune (two other competing thoughts). This confusion, the contradiction of competing ideas, ultimately ruins him. (It might be mentioned as well that, depending on the reader’s interpretation, another contradiction arises between Herman’s genuine love for Lizaveta and his overwhelming curiosity and desire for wealth.)

  12. Elise Hanks
    February 23rd, 2009 | 4:33 pm

    I find it most interesting that Pushkin goes out of his way to appear to leave a code for the reader. We have all been laboring over the numbers, searching out the significance of each one (one, in opposition to duality, three, the three characters most affect, three attempts to win, three people who were told the secret of the cards, etc.). However, Pushkin never reveals the code. In close readings of the text, with the assigning of numbers to the amount of objects (such as the description of the Countess’s bedroom) and to the number of people present or any number mentioned, there is never a consistent presentation of the three fateful cards. There are also references to other numbers (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10, 12,17,20,30,40,50,60,70,80,87, 100,275,47.000,50.000,94.000,300.000 if I have kept track of everything!). I believe that by bombarding the reader with the significance of numbers Pushkin is simply adding to the sense of the mysterious and the occult by appearing to hide a hidden meaning or answer within the text, where, in fact, none exists. He is, in effect, driving the reader mad. The reader is left muttering “The tray, seven, ace! The tray, seven, queen!” and pondering the significance of most of the text as individual words or clues.

    I believe it is important to focus on the motifs of madness, the occult, and therefore Romanticism. The ideas of the occult, evil, lunacy are present throughout Romantic literature as heroines find they cannot suffer through a duality (think Marianne in Sense and Sensibility, Poe’s works such as The Fall of the House of Usher, etc. etc). We see that Pushkin presents many dualities, from Hermann’s choice between love and money, the confusion between life and death for the Countess and in the presence of Count Saint-Germain in the story, winning and losing at gambling, good and evil, and masculine and feminine. It is between all of these binary extremes that Hermann oscillates (both voluntarily and involuntarily). Note that it is not until he acknowledges his “gambling heart” and therefore places himself in a position where he must chose between dualities.

    The curious exploration of psychology and the occult creates the dark Romantic tone for this piece which Pushkin brilliantly mirrors with his diction and syntax by making the reader obsessed with breaking the code, figuring out an explanation for the winking corpse, and attempting to discover if magic played a hand.

  13. Ben Tabb
    February 23rd, 2009 | 5:14 pm

    Since I generally find myself most intrigued by plot, and the most literal sense of the text, upon my reading it was most important for me to figure out whether Herman had gone crazy and hallucinated the odd occurrences, or whether they’re is actually a ghost or some other occult force with a hand in the fates of the characters. As Sophie pointed out, there are many good reason to believe that Herman could have imagined all the odd events. By the end of the story, he is clearly not in a sound mental state, and there is reason to believe that before that he had already been slipping. What still intrigues me, though, is the coincidence with the numbers he had picked. From my reading, it is true that the odds of winning Faro are 1-1 against losing, but there is an 11/13 chance that the player will neither win nor lose. Since Herman was only playing each card once, the odds of him winning on the first time is 1/13 after one game, 1/169 after two games and 1/2197 after three games (although he lost the third game, the number he was given was correct.) Additionally, the real number that he did pick was the dealer’s number, which after all this is a 4/51 chance (4 queens with 51 cards remaining), so the chances that he won the first two, would have one the second, but instead lost, with no draws comes out to less than 1/28000.

    Upon my first reading, I decided that this coincidence could not have happened by chance. I took the text for what it said, and assumed that some force (the ghost of the countess, perhaps) had predicted the cards, and then guided Herman’s hand into subconsciously picking the queen. In the scope of a romantic story, this does seem to make sense. Additionally, Herman’s deteriorating mental health may just have easily been created by the events, as they could have created the events. We do not know which caused which. In my mind, with the story standing alone, this explanation of the story holds water.

    What still has me wondering, though, is my new knowledge of Pushkin’s other works. In the tales of Belkin, he was much more inclined towards coincidence (“The Blizzard” being the most notable example) than magic, romanticism, or occult forces. Looking at it through this scope, it would not surprise me if in Pushkin’s mind, the story is meant to be realistic, but with a heavy dose of coincidence. Through the scopes of his other works, this seems to be a very logical explanation.

    In the end, I’m sorry to say I don’t know what to conclude. As the debates on Thursday brought up, should I view the story on its merits when it stands alone, or with the outside knowledge that I’ve been given through this class? I still have to decide that on my own.

  14. February 23rd, 2009 | 5:15 pm

    ЗАКЛЮЧЕНИЕ The Conclsuion

    Германн сошел с ума. Он сидит в Обуховской больнице в 17-м нумере, не отвечает ни на какие вопросы и бормочет необыкновенно скоро: «Тройка, семерка, туз! Тройка, семерка, дама!..»

    Hermann went out of his mind. He sits in Room 17 of the Obukhovsky Hospital, doesn’t reply to any questions and mumbles unusually rapidly: “Three, seven, ace! Three, seven, Queen!..”

    Лизавета Ивановна вышла замуж за очень любезного молодого человека; он где-то служит и имеет порядочное состояние: он сын бывшего управителя у старой графини. У Лизаветы Ивановны воспитывается бедная родственница.

    Lizaveta Ivanovna married a very likable young man; he works in the civil service and has a respectable income: he is the son of the old countess’s business manager. Lizaveta Ivanovna is raising in her home a poor relative.

    Томский произведен в ротмистры и женится на княжне Полине.

    Tomsky was promoted to Captain and is marrying Princess Polina.

    I have added the final few lines omitted by the translator? Did eh get tired? Lose a page? Think Pushkin’s prose was unnecessary? All are good questions.

  15. Susanna Merrill
    February 23rd, 2009 | 5:35 pm

    But there are parts in the middle, too, like when the ghost appears:

    — Я пришла к тебе против своей воли, — сказала она твердым голосом, — но мне велено исполнить твою просьбу. Тройка, семерка и туз выиграют тебе сряду, но с тем, чтобы ты в сутки более одной карты не ставил и чтоб во всю жизнь уже после не играл. Прощаю тебе мою смерть, с тем, чтоб ты женился на моей воспитаннице Лизавете Ивановне…

    In the English version it’s just:

    “I have come to you against my will,” she said abruptly; “but I was commanded to grant your request. The tray, seven, and ace in succession are the magic cards. Twenty-four hours must elapse between the use of each card, and after the three have been used you must never play again.”

    And then this whole part, which makes the story much more interesting, is left out in the translated version:

    Тройка, семерка, туз — скоро заслонили в воображении Германца образ мертвой старухи. Тройка, ceмерка, туз — не выходили из его головы и шевелились на его губах. Увидев молодую девушку, он говорил: «Как она стройна!.. Настоящая тройка червонная». У него спрашивали: «который час», он отвечал: «без пяти минут семерка». Всякий пузастый мужчина напоминал ему туза. Тройка, семерка, туз — преследовали его во сне, принимая все возможные виды: тройка цвела перед ним в образе пышного грандифлора, семерка представлялась готическими воротами, туз огромным пауком. Все мысли его слились в одну, — воспользоваться тайной, которая дорого ему стоила. Он стал думать об отставке и о путешествии. Он хотел в открытых игрецких домах Парижа вынудить клад у очарованной фортуны. Случай избавил его от хлопот.

    There are a bunch of other parts too, scattered throughout the story.

  16. Patrick O'Neill
    February 23rd, 2009 | 6:56 pm

    In my personal opinion, the story has strong romantic overtones, although one could very well argue in favor of strong tendencies of realism owing to the ambiguity brought into the story by Pushkin. Subjectivity is crucial to romantic works of art and literature and I feel that while Sophie among others argues well in favor of a realist depiction of the story, I have a similar take on the story like Ben and am still somewhat wondering whether Hermann in fact was hallucinating or whether supernatural occurrences were really at work in the story. Because no solid conclusion on the matter can ever be made, the decision ultimately falls to the subjectivity of the reader and their own personal view of the events, thus I would have to classify this story as having strong romantic elements.

    Personally, I tend more to share the opinion that Hermann had in fact descended into a state of utter madness, torn between the many dualities that Elise catalogues so well in her post. Pushkin does a wonderful job at portraying a normally reserved and cautious man that suddenly becomes hellbent on obtaining an occult secret and reaping great riches with it. While the occult elements in the story and their apparent success may lead one to believe that the ghostly apparition and the magic/mysterious forces behind the secret are in fact real, Hermann’s lunacy was just too evident for me as a reader. I must concede, however, that Pushkin does a wonderful job of creating a duality in the story as a whole between these too elements that do somewhat drive the reader a little crazy.

    On a final note, I would also like to mention that while the plot differences are quite substantial, I couldn’t help but think about Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” while reading this story. The anti-heroes in both of the respective stories I think share a similar descent into madness away from their ostensible “normalness” which in both cases is driven by a burning obsession that completely consumes them.

  17. Alexandra Boillot
    February 23rd, 2009 | 6:57 pm

    Pushkin’s statement that “Two fixed ideas cannot exist in the brain at the same time any more than two bodies can occupy the same point in space” is all too true for Herman in “The Queen of Spades.” Herman’s initial idea on gambling was that he did not want to, and never would, risk wasting his “necessaries” in life. However, once he hears that there is a sure way to add to his possessions he cannot help but be tempted. He gets too caught up in this temptation so that he never questions the validity of Tomsky’s story and, subsequently, the three magic cards. Not once after hearing this story does Herman think back on his previous precautions about gambling, he only thinks about getting the Countess to reveal the cards. These two opposite stances on gambling do not have room to coexist in Herman’s mind and he chooses, subconsciously, to let the much more tempting, exciting, and rewarding idea take over his mind.
    Similarly, when Herman is picking his final and most important card, his brain cannot accommodate two ideas and, again, the stronger one wins over. In this moment I believe that Herman’s thoughts were very much with the Countess which was represented to him as the Queen of Spades. The symbolism here is very clear and when Herman took this card it was because he could not get his thoughts away from the Countess and therefore the Ace, the card he was supposed to pick, was out of his mind completely. The Queen could have occupied his mind here on her own accord, through her ghost, which she had done once before when visiting him to tell him of the three cards. However, Herman could have also been experiencing a moment of regret for causing her death and then using that to better his own situation instead of properly repenting for his sin. Either way, these thoughts kept his brain from the task at hand, acquiring the Ace, so that he chose his card based on the only idea in his mind at the time, the Countess, represented by the Queen of Spades.

  18. Lisa Eppich
    February 23rd, 2009 | 8:05 pm

    I don’t think we can classify this story as either romanticism or realism. Realism was a movement that tried to depict life as factually as possible in writing, and bringing up the everyday and overarching problems that come up throughout the course of ones life. While this story did focus on problems such as greed, madness, love, etc., the intent and diction of a realist piece wasn’t there, as there was no sense of objectivity.

    Queen of Spades does have a lot of romantic elements to it: Hermann’s over-indulgence, the love letters between him and Liza, the metaphors of the cards, fate, etc. However, while reading I never really got the feeling that this was a romantic work, maybe just because it didn’t feel as give-me-a-break, over-the-top indulgent feelings and emotions as most romantic literature has. If anything, I feel like this story would be much at home in the Tales of Belkin not just because it had a similar narration (even set up to be story-like by the soldiers in the beginning), but because I feel that while part of us wait in anticipation for the magic numbers to be revealed, really we’re wondering what kind of unexpected twist Pushkin is going to come up with.

    I won’t reiterate what everyone else has already said about the importance and intricacy of the numbers and all of that, but rather I think, as a few other people have mentioned already, the way Pushkin goes about the idea of obsession and insanity is key to how this story transcends the romantic genre and becomes Pushkin’s own. One key to this I think is the line “I have come to you against my will…but I was commanded to grant your request.” (p. 8). This line seemed kind of out of place in this story because, as Sophie said, the Countess is alluding to some other power. This would seem in line with romanticism, as it brings up the idea of mysticism and religion, whether or not Herman had been insane since the start, etc. At first I thought it was just kind of funny, thinking that the Countess was being prodded by the devil or something to bring ruin onto someone else (or maybe by god to clear her own conscience), but I wonder if Pushkin is just being funny again, since the author is always really the higher authority to his stories, isn’t he? After all, the story can’t progress if Hermann never gets the secret numbers, right? So maybe Pushkin was alluding to his own power to manipulate events by forcing his own character to do his bidding to progress his own story. This would transcend genre because in this era, authors don’t break the “fourth wall,” and Pushkin making himself the “god” of this stories would be a parody against the typical romantic story where characters are always worried about whether they’re being blown around by their feelings. Maybe it’s too much of a stretch, but I don’t really put it past him, either.

  19. Casey Mahoney
    February 23rd, 2009 | 9:11 pm

    “Queen of Spades” definitely has the potential to categorically be a romance: spirits, dramatic death, a secret about magic cards, a haunting and eerie feel throughout, and even Pushkin’s throwing in the allusion to the philosopher stone in Tomsky’s story. That said, I feel like a comparison with Poe doesn’t do justice to what I thought were real, concrete human issues in the story. Pushkin was surrounded by the Petersburg culture of gamblers and gunsmen, and he knew, often firsthand, what went with that–failed attempts at love (or lust), bad credit, empty pockets, delving into the occult, drunkenness, illness, and the delusional nut-case from time to time. I think this story gives as accurate a picture we can expect at the time of the darker side of Petersburg and of real, human follies as seen through Herman’s problems (though Gogol’s plots, Dostoevsky’s characters, et al. will definitely take this and run with it), and it doesn’t employ much of the “fluff,” if you will, we see in some of the other stories of Pushkin’s.

    So I don’t think that it’s romanticism, but I don’t think it’s a Dickens-type realist, either, simply because we’re asked to believe in the hallucination as Herman sees it/in the apparition itself (depending which reading you’re taking), even though Pushkin would hardly expect an enlightened audience to believe in such things. Instead, I think that this story differs from the others we’ve read, in that it mixes Pushkin’s real experience of the Westernized Petersburg with Pushkin’s facetious belief in the Russian occult of countryside folk tales, which as I mentioned earlier, points to Gogol, at least as I remember him (minus the satire).

    Previous posts have shown how much the “Two fixed ideas . . . two points in space” quote does apply to Pushkin’s “wandering” between the motifs of Queen and Ace, winning and losing, loving and money-making/-losing, and so forth. The ending of the story, though, leaves the reader and Herman alike in a dazed state wondering which of the two thoughts is the “right” one–that is, weighing two ideas at once. Similarly, it’s valuable to consider that Pushkin intentionally left his “genre” ambiguous so as to accent the doubleness of being seriously real, and fantastically romantic at once.

  20. Zachary Harris
    February 23rd, 2009 | 9:15 pm

    I find the debate as to whether this is more of a romantic or realistic story to be very interesting. I would define realistic writing as attempting to portray reality down to the most heightened detail in one’s story. Romanticism is writing in a way in which the physical reality of the events of a narrative is abandoned to an extent, and are replaced by emotions and exaggeration of the facts.

    I personally think that, based on these definitions of Romanticism and Realism, that this is for the most part a Romantic story. There are never many details as to what is exactly going on in the story or about the settings where events are taking place. Also, while I do agree with some comments stated previously that the events portrayed in this story can all be seen as realistic (with the bizarre occurrences simply being products of Hermann’s insanity), the way in which they are portrayed makes this story not a product of Realism.

    The one problem with the realism of the facts in this story that I had was, like Ben, that the chances of Hermann winning with a 3, then a 7, and then losing with the Ace over the Queen were extremely low. However, I think that since many of the details in this story are excluded, that one could interpret that there could have been other cards drawn before Hermann won or lost a hand that did not effect his result, and that these draws were simply excluded.

    Thus, while the facts of the story are realistic, the way in which the story is portrayed is based on the highly emotional and subjective viewpoint of Hermann. Hermann is a blatantly mentally disturbed person whose obsession with wealth leads to his total breakdown and inability to survive in society. After hearing a fantastical story told by his friend Tomsky of his grandmother’s knowledge of how to surely win cards, Hermann goes to excessive lengths to obtain this information. This involves a grand deception of a young girl and the accidental death of Tomsky’s grandmother. The delusional and now guilty Hermann is then visited by Tomsky’s grandmother’s “ghost” who tells him the way he will win at cards. He also believes immediately in this ghost, which is further proof of his insanity. He then goes to use this information, but it fails him when he needs it most. He blames Tomsky’s grandmother for this and goes completely insane.

    The events of the story are realistic and simply show a crazed man obsessed by wealth and destroyed by it. However, the mystical legend surrounding the correct cards for winning faro and the fact that most of the story is seen through the perspective of the insane Hermann make this a Romantic story

  21. Gabriel G Suarez
    February 23rd, 2009 | 10:37 pm

    Hermann’s fate in “The Queen of Spades” is a sad one. A man who had three trump cards: Economy, Moderation, and Industry, has his inheritance and life blown away by a singular card, which he was sure not to have chosen. Pushkin’s use of numbers and symbols in this story is fantastic, if for no other reason than he encodes a tragic and unpredictable tale with discrete and permanent units of reason and order. It is a story framed by cards, objects both rational and random, with little force but great power. It is masterfully written. With every word of every story, he continues to illustrate why Russians regard him as “наше все.”

    I would categorize the story as realism, but with many reservations. Obviously, the thick element of tragedy is first among them. In the introduction, we meet Hermann, who abstains from gambling “because he is a German.” Later we find out about the great value he places on moderation and careful spending, but he is also enchanted by the idea of an easy out, a leg up. He is very honest about this to begin with: he won’t spend the money unwisely, he tells the frightened Countess. But then, he drops 94,000 rubles on a prediction given to him by a ghost.

    Another reservation I have about calling this story straight realism is the presence of numerical coincidence. We see this everywhere–the Queen of Spades as both the Countess and the card, the certainty that he will win on the third card, and the constant dropping of numbers.

    Finally, let us not lose sight of the presence of Count Saint Germain, a magical and legendary hyper-centenarian guest of European courts.

    But, the reason I characterize this story as realism is the subtlety and art with which it is carried out. No part of the story leaves us shaking our heads because of its ridiculous jumps. Sure, there was a ghost, but who is to say she was real? Perhaps it was her death that made Hermann crazy, not his loss. The love story is understated, the tragedy believable, and the resolution perfectly reasonable. Ironically, the largest factors of chaos in this story were the force-less and numerical cards, while order was afforded by passion, and love, murder and ambition.

  22. Stewart Moore
    February 23rd, 2009 | 11:00 pm

    This story seems to be indeed a fable as one of the characters so rightly put it. It can be interpreted to give a moral conclusion: don’t dwell upon money so much that you step on anyone in your way. At the same time, don’t mess with old women because they know what’s up. I feel that this at the time could be a warning to men about diamonds and spades.
    The queen of spades is the only queen of the four that holds a scepter and a flower, showing her ruling ability. The other three only hold flowers, that is in my deck of cards at least. It’s quite easy to link the queen to the old woman in this story. She (her ghost) in fact told Herman the correct cards, yet in his carelessness or perhaps by influence of the woman’s ghost he picked the wrong card, the queen of spades. This echos the idea that Herman chose the wrong old lady to mess with. He picked her, and he lost everything. Wether by chance or by destiny, the outcome was still the same.
    Continuing with that, not only did he lose his money and sanity, perhaps he could have had a nice little relationship with Lisa. He obviously used her affections to gain access to the old woman. And here is another small lesson of things that can happen when one abuses love to seek personal gain.
    I suppose I must draw from a group of literary geniuses in our own day to find even more meaning to this story. The Eagles , in “Desperado”, sing, “Don’t you draw the queen of diamonds, boy. She’ll beat you if she’s able. You know the queen of hearts is always your best bet.” Sadly the Eagles failed to mention the queen of spades. But combining these great minds we learn great knowledge for men who are pursuing women. The queen of diamonds is queen of just that, riches, and she will wear a man down. The queen of spades is a powerful woman who can turn a man rich or insane. And the queen of hearts is a man’s best bet.
    In our story, Herman plays with all three queens, something a man should not do. He want’s riches, diamonds, so he steps on and uses the queen of hearts, Lisa, to get them. However the queen of spades punishes him for abusing the queen of hearts in such a way.
    Pushkin and the Eagles tell us that diamonds are no good. Pushkin warns us about the queen of spades, and the Eagles conclude that the queen of hearts is what should be desired. So fellow men, draw the queen of hearts

  23. Matthew Lazarus
    February 24th, 2009 | 12:37 am

    Being neither an expert on romanticism nor realism, I offer my humblest opinion twentysomethingth in line when I say that “The Queen of Spades” uses… let’s just say elements of both. I’d like to add to the discussion of the point Harry brought up in post number three – the elements of both genres Pushkin chooses to employ create a feeling of weird supernatural awkwardness. It’s almost what would realistically transpire from the act of someone (allegedly) seeing a ghost, obtaining some worthwhile card-playing tip, and then rain manning it home for the win. On the one hand, you have men gambling. Men who challenge each other by saying things like, “What of it?” – taking themselves very seriously, for the record. The fact that the subject matter of this story rests on gambling adds a certain smoky lounge tension to the story, where dignity is spread thin over a card table and the men take comfort in the brutish, anonymous security that these gilded youth share. Pushkin makes note that these youth are “neglecting society.” Gambling itself appeals to the institution of escaping reality, which is what these men seem to be doing. To sum up, I see in this story a realistic depiction of men, acting like men, and women, acting like women, but in slightly bizarre circumstances. The dialogue in particular, I thought, showcased this juxtaposition. When Herman goes to Lisa to tell her that the Countess is dead, he says, “Furthermore, I believe that I was the cause of her death.” I really enjoyed this line. Herman just scared an old woman literally to death with an unarmed weapon. That is pretty humiliating, and not to mention it’s a tough thing to have over your conscience. I liked how Herman came clean to Lisa but in a way that doesn’t totally make him look like a jerk for killing the Countess: he says he BELIEVES he is the cause of death. I say well done Pushkin, for if I were Herman, and if I didn’t want to ruin my pretty much already ruined chances with Lisa, I’d choose my words carefully too. I also found it interesting that Lisa exclaimed, “How are you going to get out of the house?” Herman responds intelligently with show me where to go and I’ll leave. I enjoyed this brief logistical debate. That is the mark of realism in my mind; Lisa was overwhelmed, and sometimes when you’re overwhelmed you just blurt out a question that has no immediate bearing on the overall situation. In terms of the characters, I thought Lisa was very realistic, and I thought her reaction to finding out Herman was really only in it for the rubles was about as normal as you could get. As for Herman, he stands out (especially at the end) from the other men for the extent to which he takes an interest in Tomsky’s story. We see him outside Lisa’s window. We know he’s kind of a strange one. In the end he loses. What’s more true to reality than that?

  24. Hannah Wilson
    February 24th, 2009 | 1:36 am

    Hermanns obsession with winning eclipses his potential for a very happy life with Lizaveta (or anyone else) shows us that he is so fully consumed with the idea of winning that nothing else is important to him. He goes to great lengths to determine what the Countess’ lucky cards are. He sneaks into the house, lies to Lizaveta, and only eventually sees them in his dream. Throughout the story we are only shown Hermann as a character obsessed with gambling (even, as Gabe points out, though he is acting in moderation) and the possibility of winning a large sum of money, so our idea of him is very one sided and we are not able to fathom that there are any other sides to him. In fact, we only see one side of all the major characters. The narrator (yes, I am bringing the narrator up again) is not omnipotent and neither fleshes out nor illuminates the motives of the Countess, Herman, or Lizaveta. We only see them as you would see a mere acquaintance. Pushkin here reiterates the point that we, as humans can only have one idea in our brain at any given moment.
    Pushkin also forces us, as a reader to focus on the repetition of numbers throughout the entire book. Seeing the number words on the page makes it much easier for us to notice their repetition; however, I do not think it would have been as obvious for Herman throughout the story. While these things did exist around him, in our everyday lives we do not go around counting the number of chamber maids nor other objects around us. Part of Pushkin’s genius stems from his ability to make the reader think about specific aspects of the story, here, the repetition of numbers. Or, perhaps we have all been conditioned by Professor Beyer’s advice to look for numbers and we have failed to see something else.

  25. Matthew Rothman
    February 24th, 2009 | 4:47 am

    I would like to begin my response principally as a response to a line from Gabriel in post 21: “Another reservation I have about calling this story straight realism is the presence of numerical coincidence.” By this point, I have concluded with near certainty that Pushkin enjoys nothing more than manipulating his reader, and he does so by refusing to play on level ground. When I considered Gabriel’s comment, I immediately jumped at the idea of “numerical coincidence.” Pushkin seems to me the kind of author who would include in his stories some facet that is so obviously contrived an outside of the spectrum of coincidence, that the reader must assume a deeper, symbolic meaning and will spend extensive time and effort attempting to draw some conclusion from the presence and repetition of, for example, numbers.

    I wonder if Pushkin himself is not unlike the old Countess in his own story: he provides the reader with a series of numbers and contrivances. These numbers all relate to each other in a strikingly prescient and relevant way, and force the reader to look for patterns. Pushkin’s story seems crafted with the explicit intention of forcing the reader to place a level of importance on the numbers such that the mere mention of any number cannot be coincidence: everything from the Countess’ age to the amount of Herman’s wagers must hide some deep-rooted and philosophical meaning.

    Through this manipulation, Pushkin toes the line between Realism and Romanticism. The presence of numbers and the forced conclusion that patterns necessarily emerge from them leads the reader towards a sense of Romanticism: the world is inextricably linked, and the interpretations and repetitions are there for the careful onlooker to observe and grasp. However, the deliberateness and calculation (no pun intended) with which Pushkin includes a series of numbers that are at once so obviously meaningful yet so arbitrary forces me to conclude ultimately that the numbers are, in truth, coincidence. A reader could substitute any other number of a relatively similar value (I recognize the subjectivity of my own standard, as well as the mild irony of invoking a subjective standard in this discussion) and still find interlinked strings of numbers and relationships throughout the text. This coincidence, so deliberately crafted by Pushkin, leads me to conclude that the story belongs more to Realism.

  26. February 24th, 2009 | 7:46 am

    Анекдот о трех картах сильно подействовал на его воображение и целую ночь не выходил из его головы. «Что, если, — думал он на другой день вечером, бродя по Петербургу, — что, если старая графиня откроет мне свою тайну! — или назначит мне эти три верные карты! Почему ж не попробовать своего счастия?.. Представиться ей, подбиться в ее милость, — пожалуй, сделаться ее любовником, — но на это все требуется время — а ей восемьдесят семь лет, — она может умереть через неделю, — через два дня!.. Да и самый анекдот?.. Можно ли ему верить?.. Нет! расчет, умеренность и трудолюбие: вот мои три верные карты, вот что утроит, усемерит мой капитал и доставит мне покой и независимость!»

  27. Natalie Komrovsky
    February 24th, 2009 | 10:15 am

    I would probably categorize this story as realism. Gabe talked about (and Matthew responded to) the idea that numerical coincidence plays too strong a role for this to be strictly realism. However, I think that Pushkin subtly weaves this into the fabric of the story. It’s not something that’s jumping out at you, demanding to be noticed. It makes the story more neat and orderly. If this element were more apparent and leading the story instead of just being part of it, I probably wouldn’t classify “The Queen of Spades” as realism. But it’s so understated that I think it’s safe to say that the story is still within the bounds of realism.

    Furthermore, each part of this story is unexaggerated and believable. I know a number of people above me have mentioned this, but the story follows a logical trajectory at each point. Hermann, a normally cautious and frugal man, is intrigued by his opportunity to increase his fortune. He tries to get closer to the Countess through Lisa (giving her small, but undramatic love notes). She dies and he thinks he scared her to death. Lisa freaks out, Hermann leaves. At this point in the story, the Countess’s ghost could have been a hallucination or some sort of vision. This is the beginning of Hermann’s path to insanity. He wins, he wins, he loses, he falls of the deep end. My point is, while there are some romantic ideas, or even hints of ideas, in the story, “The Queen of Spades” overall is deeply rooted in realism.

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

    I am always very concerned with considering the author’s intention behind a work of literature. What does he/she wish to convey? What literary devices does he/she use to advance this idea? How clear is it? How much room does the work leave for the reader’s interpretation? When asking these questions of Pushkin and “The Queen of Spades,” I believe that the “numerical coincidence” (as the posts before me have called it) becomes a matter of debate, and certainly a good way to address the above questions.

    Matthew Rothman says, “Pushkin’s story seems crafted with the explicit intention of forcing the reader to place a level of importance on the numbers such that the mere mention of any number cannot be coincidence…” I think this statement reveals the crux of the argument: did Pushkin intend the reader to notice these numerical references and assign importance to them, or are they simply the product of the reader’s analytical interpretation? While the question is difficult to answer factually, the essence of the issue becomes very relevant to literature. Nabokov’s Pale Fire, which provides a poem by a fictional character and a commentary of the poem by another fictional character, intelligently addresses this fine line by showing clear instances where the commentator overanalyzes and completely misinterprets the poem. But doesn’t the poem belong to each individual reader? If one believes that Pushkin’s numbers are deliberate, isn’t that enough justification to view the text in this way (assuming there is some evidence)? (This reflects Catherine Ahearn’s reference to “gematria”). Or does the author’s intention become the “goal,” if you will, of our literary escapade? If Professor Beyer had not drawn attention to the use of numbers in “The Queen of Spades,” I do not believe I would have seen immediate significance in them. Perhaps Pushkin, like Nabokov, wishes to toy the reader (as he does in many other stories) and force him/her to ponder and question the importance of his use of numerical language.

  29. Susanna Merrill
    February 24th, 2009 | 10:30 am

    I”m interested in the role the fate of Lizaveta plays in the story. In the unabridged version, there is a lot of emphasis on the feelings of the young woman, who chafes against the pitiful social role of the poor, dependent relation, a virtual slave to the caprices of the old, selfish countess. She is excited as never before by the apparent interest of Hermann, because the young men never pay attention to her, though she is “a hundred times better than their cold brides.” The story of Hermann’s attentions is told first through Lizaveta’s eyes, in which it is rather sad; it is then told through Hermann’s, and we feel some sympathy for him, too, as a fairly poor man whose deep passions are generally repressed under forced parsimoniousness and responsibility. What is most, interesting, though, is that the countess’ ghost commands Hermann to marry Lizaveta, and that she tells him that only then will his sin be expunged. If Hermann’s vision is a result of his own drunkenness or madness, this suggests that he is not as heartless as he seems, and that the plight of the miserable (but not, interestingly, overly silly; she recognizes her folly in attaching her hopes to Hermann fairly quickly) young girl whom he has used in some way cries out for improvement.
    If the ghost is real, the story is a little more puzzling. The old countess has never shown any pity for Lizaveta before, and has been content to leave her a servant, with no thought to introducing her to eligible men, or finding another occupation for her, that would aid her after the countess’ death. She is not in the habit of worrying over the financial situation of her relatives: she never even told the secret of the cards to her own sons or grandsons, though, as Tomsky says, it would have been useful to them. The possibility of the countess’ returning from the grave to ensure the future of her poor relative just seems incompatible with her character as we know it; the conclusion seems to be that the romantic and crazed Hermann included Lizaveta in his crazed vision as a sort of justification of his course of action.

  30. Jacquelyn Wright
    February 24th, 2009 | 10:41 am

    So this is what I get for posting so late: everyone has made probably all the essential points (textual, conceptual) that would make my argument seem all the more riveting and true.

    I agree that the story is Romantic, and that it shares a darker sense of tampering with unknown forces with Poe, etc. Just because a story is Romantic doesn’t mean it can’t be at all believable. What makes a story Romantic is its thematic elements, not the details. That isn’t the focus. It’s what the details represent. I don’t think this is a Realist story whatsoever. There has been some earlier association between Realism and numbers, because apparently numbers are grounded in fact? Actually, numbers here are shrouded in myth and superstition, all intangible themes that in no way share the day-to-day predictability of Realism.

    Herman doesn’t have feeling. He’s just an average seedy guy that Liza wouldn’t have married anyhow, so he didn’t have anything to win there. So I wouldn’t really give him any emotional context, since that isn’t at all a part of Pushkin’s agenda here.

    So…there appears to be a difference in the story itself and how we interpret it. If the story is romantic, we want to draw realistic conclusions to make some sense out of it. But if it is all Realism, then we have to have some explanation for the mysterious sense of fate present here.

    I like Elise’s comment in that the story then serves a poetic function: doing what it says.

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