19th Century Russian Literature


Pechorin-predestined or just pretentious?

Pechorin says so many things, some clever, some true, some troubling, but is he honest with himself? Choose one of your favorite lines from his diary and comment on it, it as reflected in Pechorin and its relevance to today.


  1. Harry Morgenthau
    March 1st, 2009 | 7:51 pm

    “To be always on the lookout, to intercept every glance, to catch the meaning of every word, to guess intentions, to thwart plots, to pretend to be fooled, and suddenly, with one push, to upset the entire enormous and elaborate structure of cunning and scheming – that is what I call life.” (end of June 5)

    After deciding with near certainty after the first section of the novel that I did not like Pechorin at all, I found myself more and more drawn to him as I read “Princess Mary,” mostly because of lines like these. While many of his actions still seem despicable to me, he at the same time has a poise and skill that I could not help but admire. He so effectively and completely controls the characters around him that I could not help but respect him for it.
    This quote also shows the problem that Pechorin has as a man with only limited potential for upward social movement. He is a very intelligent man, but in the stiff Russian hierarchy, it can only take him so far. Consequently, he is stuck in a position that does not take up all of his brain power, and leads him to boredom. My mother has always told me that bored children with nothing to do are the ones who always get in trouble, because it is the only way they can find something exciting to do. Pechorin is the perfect example. His job asks next to nothing of him, and he is left out in the caucasus, removed from almost all aspects of intelligent society. Unsurprisingly, he resorts to mischief because it is the only way for him to feel alive. Pechorin’s mischief is, first and foremost, a game with himself. He is far more concerned with his own abilities to manipulate and deceive than he is with thoughts or feelings of others. He seeks a desired effect not out of the sole purpose of hurting someone, but out of challenging himself to see if he can do it. While this does not free him of the blame for his actions, I think that it should change how we view him. His vendetta’s are not personal – the only goal he seeks is a heightened feeling of life for himself.
    I think this also begins to explain Pechorin’s lack of interest when dealing with Maksim Maksimich earlier in the novel; Maksim was a simple man who brought Pechorin no new opportunities for excitement, and so Pechorin was not concerned with him. The most important thing to Pechorin was always himself, and if something did not directly connect to a new experience for that self, it was not worth wasting time on.
    Finally, I willingly admit that I may have been hoodwinked by the beautiful language of the translation. I read the first half of the novel on the email link, and the second half in a hard copy of the Nabokov translation. My change in spirits could have had as much to do with the change in translators as anything else.

  2. Kara Shurmantine
    March 1st, 2009 | 9:32 pm

    “How can one not be a fatalist after this? [Vulich’s death] Yet who really knows if he believes a thing or not? How often our beliefs are mere illusions or mental aberrations. I prefer to doubt everything. Such an attitude makes no difference to a man’s determination—on the contrary, as far as I am concerned, I always go more boldly forward when I don’t know what lies ahead. After all, the worst you can do is die, and you’ve got to die some time.”

    “I prefer to doubt everything”—how perfect a summation of Pechorin’s attitude towards life. Nothing escapes Pechorin’s doubt, not even himself or his actions. He moves swiftly from one obsession to another, never settling on anything. During his drawn-out campaign to seduce Princess Mary, he dubiously interrogates himself, wondering if he loves her; he experiences bitter moments of misgiving and wonders if this course is indeed what he wants, unable to find fulfillment in any option or any action. Even after Vulich’s death, when Pechorin himself admits in his diary that he “foretold the poor fellow’s death,” he simply cannot make up his mind whether or not he believes in predestination.

    Pechorin declares that no one truly knows “if he believes a thing or not.” But this just seems like a presumptuous and ultimately false generalization about a mankind with whom Pechorin is hopelessly disconnected. Pechorin himself certainly can’t decide whether or not he believes anything—in love, truth, happiness, fate, God. (Just about the only thing he can resign himself to is a passionate admiration for the beauty of nature.) I disagree with his assertion, however, that a person’s deepest beliefs are essentially arbitrary and translucent. Pechorin has never encountered—or, at least, comprehended—a true faith, a true belief. His life is so unfulfilled, so barren, and so remote from human passions and faiths that he can’t comprehend how an individual can truly believe in predestination, as Vulich did, with all his heart and soul.

    I think that might be the Pechorin’s ultimate tragedy: he is so removed from humanity, so painfully disconnected from the people around him, that not only does he fail to comprehend basic human belief, faith, and passion, he cannot even comprehend how truly disconnected he is. He overlooks the constants that occupy the lives of every human—beauty, truth, love, hate, faith, passion—and, with a chilling indifference, sees only one constant: death.

  3. Patrick O'Neill
    March 2nd, 2009 | 1:59 pm

    “I remember that on this occasion, more than ever before, I was in love with nature. How curiously I examined every dewdrop that trembled upon a broad vine leaf and reflected a million iredescent rays! How avidly my gaze tried to penetrate into the hazy distance!”

    Throughout Pechorin’s journal and the entire book for that matter, there are numerous accounts of the surrounding beauty from the various perspectives. As the novel progressed, I began to more or less skim these passages, which had become rather repetitive, the above account of Pechorin caught my eye. While on his way up to the duel, Pechorin takes note that the nature seems extra special to him. During this time, he acknowledges that he may very well die in the upcoming duel but dismisses such thoughts, claiming that death is inescapable and that he does not really fear such an outcome. However, I believe that the above quote reveals that Pechorin actually does have a little fear about perishing and is simply assuring the reader of the opposite so as to uphold his image. His remarks here definitely contradict, slightly so as they may seem to, the nonchalant attitude and general ennui that has thus far characterized the protagonist throughout the novel owing to the current circumstances.

    Interestingly enough, my opinion of Pechorin failed to change after this passage. While the man is evidently undergoing some inner turmoil and putting on quite a front, I would not have expected anything else. It is only natural to feel fear and uneasiness going into a duel, no matter what the circumstances, because nerves are tense and the stakes are high. Furthermore, it should be entirely expected that Pechorin tries his best to cover up any such feelings to maintain his image, especially in the journal that HE is writing of himself. All things said, the contrast of this passage from those preceding was quite interesting and provided a slight glimpse into the true thoughts and emotions of Pechorin, which otherwise would have been hidden by his indifferent façade.

  4. Ben Tabb
    March 2nd, 2009 | 4:07 pm

    “I’d make any sacrifice but this–twenty times I can stake my life, even my honor, but my freedom I’ll never sell. Why do I prize it so much? What do I find in it? What am I aiming at? What have I to expect from the future? Nothing, absolutely nothing.” (June 14th)

    In my post regarding the first half of the book, I wrote quite certainly that Pechorin’s actions were results of little more than a boredom he felt for the world. That he was simply a bored person who was looking for adventure, and would happily entertain himself no matter what the cost to others. As Pechorin tells his story, though, I felt more and more like something else was guiding his actions: an unjustifiable fear that he will someday lose his freedom. Above all else, it appears he desires freedom, and control. He says he has no desire for friends because he does not one to risk becoming a “slave,” as one friend must always do. He does not want to marry Princess Mary, which, although he partially blames on the prediction of a fortune-teller, can also be attributed to his clear concern for losing his freedom. He even states outright, “my greatest pleasure I derive from subordinating everything around me to my will. Is it not both the first token of power and its supreme triumph to inspire in others the emotions of love, devotion and fear? Is it not the sweetest fare for our vanity to be the cause of pain or joy for someone without the least claim thereto? And what is happiness? Pride gratified. Could I consider myself better and more powerful than anyone else in the world, I would be happy. ” All he wants in life is to have control over himself and his surroundings.

    I think this is most evident in his treatment of Princess Mary. He sees Grushnitsky’s attempts to please the princess, but for some reason needs to have control for himself. He manipulates the Princess to feel exactly as he would like, both towards himself and Grushnitsky. He gets joy knowing that he is capable of exercising such control over other, and is successful in his attempts. In fact, it does not appear that he stops his contact with the Princess until he begins to lose control over himself. He feels that he may be in love and sees that she is beginning to consider marriage, and he realizes that if his fate were to go down that road he would no longer have control of the situation; he would be controlled by his wife, as well as his own emotions.

    I think it is no coincidence that in the final chapter, he discusses with others the issue of fate, predestination, and free will. It is of no surprise that Pechorin does not believe in a predetermined fate, for he does not like the idea of not having control or freedom. After seeing Vulic’s final hours played out, he begins to question his belief, but eventually decides that he still cannot know it was not just a coincidence. His eventual conclusion seems to be that although death is certain, or rather, because death is certain, he should have nothing to fear. And if it his desire for control that is “why” he acts the ways he does, it is his fearlessness that is “how” he is able to accomplish whatever he wants. Together these two traits create a dynamic and unique character who knows what he wants (at least in the short term) and how to get it.

  5. Brett Basarab
    March 2nd, 2009 | 4:23 pm

    “I am like a sailor born and bred on deck of a pirate brig. His soul is used to storms and battles, and when cast out on the shore, he feels bored and oppressed, no matter how the shady grove cures him, no matter how the peaceful sun shines on him” (180).

    Pechorin has several lines similar to the one above, but this lines seems to best encapsulate Pechorin’s tragic lifestyle. By no means a justification for Pechorin’s actions, this line at least provides a reason, and demonstrates the inner workings of Pechorin’s mind. Throughout the novella, I saw Pechorin as a selfish man out of touch with the way most other people act. By the end of “Princess Mary,” my opinion of him only worsened. By the end of this story, Pechorin has killed Grushnitski, only after destroying their friendship and Grushnitski’s hopes for happiness, and he has completely ruined the lives of Vera and Princess Mary. Needless to say, Pechorin has also given up several opportunities to ensure his own happiness. The story ends without him finding a permanent lover.

    However, the above line at the end of “Princess Mary” brings to light reasons for Pechorin’s actions. Pechorin has an unsatiable desire for adventure. As Harry said, however, Pechorin is remarkably intelligent and his lifestyle leaves him in utter boredom. Pechorin mentions that he does not want to get married for fear of an unchanging, boring lifestyle. Like a pirate, he thrives off risk and danger-the very thought of a stable, permanent life style repulses him. No matter how much he loves a woman, he will never marry her, and therefore any serious relationship Pechorin has will ultimately end in tragedy. It becomes clear that Pechorin is in love with Princess Mary-his continual obsession with her is unmistakable. However, Pechorin eventually tells her outright that he doesn’t love her, which sends her into months of sickness. In the end, she tells Pechorin that she hates him, which is justifiable after what he has done to her. Also, his old love for Vera gets reignited, but again Pechorin is unable to follow through on it. Vera, who clearly loved Pechorin back, is forced to leave with her husband, deeply saddened. Pechorin had two great chances at true love, but he could not stray from his pirate lifestyle. He fears that the women he loves, who are like the “peaceful sun” that shines on him, will leave him bored in due time. Perhaps he is correct, given his previous relationship with Bela, but in each case Pechorin sacrifices an easy chance at lifelong happiness.

    Pechorin’s pirate lifestyle is also evident in his relations with Grushnitski. Grushnitski was originally a good friend of Pechorin’s, and such a friend brings most people happiness and stability. Pechorin, however, is led by his sense of adventure to destroy their relationship. He gradually steals Princess Mary away from Grushnitski as Grushnitksi becomes more and more enraged. Their collapsing relationship comes to an end with the duel that ends with Grushnitski being shot and plummeting to a painful death. Simply due to Pechorin’s lifestyle, he manages to turn a friend into a mortal enemy and then to cause that friend’s tragic death.

    In the end, we can clearly see why Pechorin acts as he does. Some may claim that Pechorin’s refusal of a stable lifestyle is not a refusal of happiness. Instead, he can only find happiness through adventure and danger, so he should continue his life as it is. However, we also have to look at how Pechorin’s lifestyle destroy’s the lives of so many others. Grushnitski is dead, and Vera and Princess Mary have had their lives ruined. Pechorin may be unable to steer himself away from his destructive way of life, and I give him a bit of credit for realizing this himself. However, he is still clearly a selfish man who disregards the well being of others.

  6. Kaylen Baker
    March 2nd, 2009 | 4:34 pm

    “And what I have just done is to read its epitaph to you. Many regard all epitaphs as ridiculous, but I do not, particularly when I remember what rests beneath them.” June 3rd.
    This line came at the end of a long speech from Pechorin to Princess Mary, when he is explaining to her why he behaves the way he does when he mocks people. I loved this line because the first of the two meanings here, the descriptive outer meaning, is actually pretty downright humorous. Epitaphs are the inscriptions on tombstones, and can be pretty ridiculous sometimes. (My favorite here is: “I told you I was sick!” http://digitaldreamdoor.nutsie.com/pages/quotes/epitaphs.html )Pechorin’s pun about what rests beneath them is funny: it’s usually a dead body.
    But what he is actually referring to is the gravity of what he has lost, which he claims is half of his soul, from people’s lack of understanding him. I think this is actually a very important conversation in the story. This whole time we have been trying to get inside Pechorin’s head and understand what happened to him in his not-so-distant youth to turn him into a jaded, iron-hearted, bored 25 year-old who disdains everyone around him, mocks men and plays with women.
    From the beginning of this speech Pechorin is trying to get sympathy from Princess Mary as the bad guy who can’t help being bad, which is very attractive he knows, and all part of the game as we know. “I thought for a moment and then said, taking on a deeply touched face…” He isn’t being honest at all. And yet, the things he says may be exaggerations of the truth – they would explain a lot about his strange indifference to others, his restlessness, and his belief that passions are only the first part of an idea.
    He says, “Everyone read signs of non-existent evil traits in my features. But since they were expected to be there, they did make their appearance…I spoke the truth, but nobody believed me, so I began to practice duplicity.” This reflects Maksim’s view of Pechorin- he described him as a cold, beautiful man, so that’s what we believed. When Pechorin speaks the truth, he is being serious and sarcastic at the same time, so I don’t know when to believe him.
    Pechorin sees the world from a higher altitude than most people. He has a better view of the landscape, of life, so to speak. But he’s too far away to understand what he does to other people; up-close he can only see himself, and therefore puts himself before others while wondering if his life is really worth a ruble at all. This IS Pechorin’s honesty, but it is so exaggerated to us, that we don’t perceive his sincerity.
    As far as its relevance today, I think society still has the ability to turn someone clean into something foul through our own interpretations. When you look at the childhood of terrorists and dictators and superhero villains like Bin Laden and Voldemort and the like, they usually have something pitiable in their childhood that people reacted to with disgust, instead of trying to nurture them in a better environment. We’re all born innocent, so treat little kids well, is what I’m trying to say I guess.

  7. Casey Mahoney
    March 2nd, 2009 | 4:44 pm

    Is Pechorin pretentious or predestined? Neither word sums up his entire character. On the whole, he’s simply a young rogue who admits no desire for attachment and who acts accordingly: at time he is mischievous, at others (such as in the duel) he appeals to his sense of justice, sometimes he acts like a jerk with no regard for acquaintances, otherwise he likes to fool himself into thinking his good luck points at some superior quality in him. And when he’s not doing any of these, he ruminates at his mind’s content, realizing that his self-pity and -aggrandizement in his personal writings have little consequence.

    In many of his ramblings and arguments he doesn’t hide the carelessness or blameworthiness of many of his actions, yet there are many moments where he refuses to put himself under a label of being “a bad person.” In his June 11 entry, he wonders, “What is it that spurs me on? Envy of Grushnitsky? Poor chap! He does not deserve it,” not admitting that he is a jealous friend, but goes on to describe his even more tragically fatal flaw: “I sense in myself that insatial avidity that devours everything in its path; and I regard the sufferings and joys of others merely in relation to myself.” He simply must explain, must justify himself to his own sense of righteousness, a need which he realizes; he is comfortable with this, so in that respect, he is honest with himself and his sense of what is right.

    I feel like he wants it all, but at the same time will have none of it–the women, the status, the power. In the “Princess Mary” section of the book, we see him as we would amidst Petersburg society. His actions do accurately reflect the picture he has of himself. When he has his emotional breakdown, “weeping bitterly” after Vera and then deciding that “everything works out for the best,” in very rapid succession, we see the extreme of his emotional investment in his being an all-powerful manipulator, and the extreme of his being able to completely detach from the world and emotion.

    From the beginning to end, although his character might not have developed very much if at all, what we know about him did change–initially left with Maksim Maksimych’s impressions, we eventually see the other, fatalist side of Pechorin. What interests me most, though, is the deep impression that “the fatalist,” Vulic, seems to make on Pechorin. In what is certainly a meaningful epilogue to our hero’s “portrait,” as Lermontov would have it, he seems to take a step back himself and gain some perspective on a the fatalist “philosophy.” In the end, he is left wandering somewhere in between the extremes of gross narcissism and a true belief in his fated to be as he is.

    To end with my favorite line… This struck me not only because it illustrates the skepticism of the Holden-Caulfield-breed of society’s phoniness that Pechorin and Werner hold against society and its pretentiousness/melodramatic fatalism, but also because it illustrates what I feel is a significant aspect of many of my friendships: “We used to meet frequently and discuss abstract matters in all seriousness until we both noticed that we were pulling each other’s leg. Then, after looking each other in the eye significantly–the way Cicero tells us the Roman augurs did–we would burst out laughing and separate satisfied with an evening well spent.”

  8. Elise Hanks
    March 2nd, 2009 | 4:46 pm

    Although the line is not especially revealing, the following one was definitely my favorite:

    “Aha,” he said, “so that’s it! And you said you would only make the young princess’s acquaintance by rescuing her from certain death?”

    “I did better,” I replied, “I saved her from fainting at the ball!”

    When previously Pechorin declares, “Have you ever heard of heroes being formally presented? They make the acquaintance of their beloved by rescuing her from certain death…” I thought nothing more of it than another illustration of Pechorin’s arrogance and propensity for heroics and the grandiose. However, when the doctor restates this quip later on it was extremely amusing for I had forgotten all about it during the episode at the ball- which surprised me as I was giving a great deal of speculation as to how he would make himself a “hero” in her eyes. This is brilliant writing on the part of Lermentov- the distraction of the reader was, in my case, complete and the cleverness of Pechorin’s remark redoubled.

    With this sentiment (especially when paired with many other incidents and passages) Pechorin is decidedly marking himself the Byronic Hero. He does not follow the form of society and social ranking; he knows, as does everyone else in town, that he could certainly introduce himself to the princesses yet he counterfeits an air of mystery, devilishness, and excitement as part of his ploy to woo the younger princess. I think it is really important that Lermentov does not have only the narrative voice/text depict Pechorin as the Byronic Hero but has Pechorin himself cast himself in this role. He is very conscious of his conceit and reveals its creation through his diary. In this way he is not a flat character who represents the anithero but is, in fact, a testament to the times and culture.

    I am also very interested in Pechorin’s concept of love within the novel. Although he himself renounces the foolishness of love and claims never to have felt it or to have been made the slave of a woman who has paid him affections, it is notable that he is at times overwhelmed with tenderness and emotion. He is forever affected by Vera and their love affair and admits that in another time things would have worked between them. He pledges alligiance only to her in that she is the only woman he would not decieve and he does not play games with her (to the extent that he does with other women). It is interesting that this character, his one chance at love, is a woman fated to die, a woman bound up in social circumstances that prevent the two of them from being together. ALthough we as the reader don’t know why things failed between them, it could be that the impossibility of their affair is what condemns Pechorin to the role of anithero as perhaps society dictated the terms of their relationship (resulting in his mocking of social roles, disregard for protocol, etc etc). It is also interesting that she is named Vera. I don’t know anything about typical Russian names, but this doesn’t seem to be one… and in the English translation it pertains to veracity, or truth.

    Okay I’m about to look this up…

    Alright. Vera is a name found most often in Russian, English, German, Scandinavian, Dutch, Slovene, and Portuguese. All have slightly different pronunciations. Although it means “faith” in Russian (her faith in him? his faith in her eternal devotion?), it is often associated with the latin verus, or truth. Alright, my suspicions were more or less confirmed there. I think that through Pechorin’s relationship with Vera we would be able to deduce much about his character.

  9. Alexandra Boillot
    March 2nd, 2009 | 7:27 pm

    “Why did I not wish to tread the path fate held open to me with a promise of tranquil joys and peace of mind? No, I could never have reconciled myself to such a fate. I am like a mariner born and bred on board a buccaneer brig whose soul has become so used to storm and strife that, if cast ashore, he would weary and fade away, no matter how alluring the shady groves and how bright the gentle sun.”

    Pechorin ends his June 16th diary entry with this- after his duel, his attempted flight to Vera, his meeting with Princess Mary, and the news that he will be going to another town. I believe Pechorin to be mentally exhausted right now, at a point where he is able to be brutally honest with himself and can really reflect on his life. Here Pechorin admits that he could never have condemned himself to a life of tranquility and that all of his actions were to keep him on this adventurous path, laying ruin to nearly everyone he chooses to. We see this reflected quite clearly in the first half of this novel through the eyes of others and even more so through his own very frank account of different episodes in his life. After reading Pechorin’s diary I found his actions just as despicable, but since his actions were mixed with such thoughtful insights into his mind I found him as a person to be more deserving of some respect. However, the bottom line is that Pechorin, time and again, stirred up trouble for his own pleasure since “his soul [had] become so used to storm and strife.”

    From the beginning Pechorin had a strong dislike for Grushnitsky and predicted that one day they would have a falling out. However, the way in which Grushnitsky’s life and their friendship ended was predominantly determined by Pechorin’s actions. Pechorin set about to manipulate Grushnitsky in his dealings with Princess Mary and in turn manipulate the princess herself to complete the task of turning her from Grushnitsky to Pechorin. All of this was done, of course, for Pechorin’s pleasure and through no feelings of love for Princess Mary. Obviously, Grushnitsky furthered the action by plotting against Pechorin but those actions had to have been foreseen by him. Once the time for the duel comes, he could have listened to the doctor and confessed he knew of their plot but instead he wanted the excitement of the unraveling of events.

    Pechorin has no initial interest in Princess Mary, aside from finding her aesthetically pleasing, but still moves in to play with her emotions since his “greatest pleasure” comes from “subordinating everything around [him] to [his] will.” Pechorin carefully plans out and times each and every interaction with Princess Mary, calculating the effect they will each have on her and how they will influence her feelings of love for him. His actions are extremely effective, even scarily so, showing a lifetime of careful manipulation.

    Pechorin’s character represented what Lermontov believed to be plaguing Russian society at the time, a self absorbed, societal man who brings ruin to other for his own pleasure. However, Pechorin’s character has not yet disappeared from society and today they are plenty of people in high society who feel unfulfilled and uninspired by their lives so that they project their misery onto others, hoping for completion.

  10. Hannah Wilson
    March 2nd, 2009 | 7:32 pm

    Thoughout the novel I was struck by Pechorins inability to every do anything about his situation. He admits multiple times that his life is meaningless and there is nothing he can do about it. He admits in one of my favorite quotes from the June 27th entry:

    “To none has my love brought happiness, because I have never sacrificed anything for the sake of those I have loved: for myself alone I have loved – for my own pleasure. I have only satisfied the strange craving of my heart, greedily draining their feelings, their tenderness, their joys, their suffering – and I have never been able to sate myself. “

    This admission on the part of Pechorin is evidence that he honestly recognizes the reality of his life. He realizes the sadness and inevitability of his condition and his inability to ever truly experience love or happiness. Pechorin realizes that to truly satisfy himself he must bring happiness to others. This realization comes far too late. He has already been conditioned and he realizes that there is nothing he can to change his ways. Throughout the entire novella we are given examples of how Pechorin never really cares about his lovers (Bela, Vera and princess Mary) nor does he ever take an active role to right wrongs done to him (the teman).

    These are simply cop-outs. There were plenty of opportunities for him to please those around him, however it would have required him to swallow his pride and admit his wrong doings and become vulnerable to those around him. This requires much more courage than he ever demonstrates. His refusal to do so causes sadness for everyone, including himself. Interestingly when he comes to this realization it is merely a thought in his mind and not something that decides to act on. I believe that there is always room for change and that here, Pechorin takes the easiest path and does not attempt to fix his flaws. He, in essence stays true to his character. He always stays true to what we know him to be, but this does not bring him happiness as one might expect.

    Too often we as humans find that we have unwilling to sacrifice ourselves and our reputation for the our happiness and the happiness of others. The specific dilemmas of Pechorin may not be applicable today, however we can learn from his actions and realize, before it is too late, that in order to find happiness we sometimes have to sacrifice part of our pride. We other think that we can find happiness by being exactly who we are, however the lack of evolution of Pechorin would show us otherwise. Lermontov offers us the opportunity to analyze our lives and determine what is truly important: our happiness or staying true to ourselves.

  11. Zachary Harris
    March 2nd, 2009 | 8:08 pm

    “Perhaps I will die tomorrow, and there won’t be anyone left on earth who understands me fully. Some think of me worse, others better, than I really am. Some will say: he was a good fellow; others: he was a scoundrel. And both will be wrong. Is it worth the trouble to live after this? And yet you go on living–out of curiosity, in expectation of something new . . . How ludicrous and how vexatious!”

    I found this quote to be one of the better quotes in the story in describing Pechorin’s character and how he feels about himself. Pechorin does not truly value anything or take any lasting pleasure in any of the activities he finds himself in. While he does seem to truly love Vera, in a sense he cares for her only superficially as he is not at all willing to sacrifice his experimental lifestyle to be with her or to attempt to make her life better. This above quote, which he wrote in the context of potentially dying in a duel the following day, shows that he doesn’t even really attach much importance to his own life. This way of viewing life allows Pechorin to constantly experiment in new activities and new ways of manipulating people to see what the outcome will be. This is shown by the way he works incredibly hard to seduce Mary and ensure that she does not love Grushnitsky. He has no intention of reaping any lasting rewards from this pursuit except perhaps the knowledge of what it is like to steal a woman from a man who is infatuated with her.

    This behavior results in what he described above, that people whom he hurts will inevitably call him a scoundrel. Others, like Vera or Maksim prior to their last meeting, will have a very high opinion of him due to his very interesting personality and ability to engage in extraordinary behavior. However, Pechorin would be better to say that his reckless behavior for the most part causes people to view him as a scoundrel, with very few people actually seeing him as a good person. His lack of any true investment in his relationships mean that in the end, when he is done using someone for whatever purpose he is using them for at the time, he will shun the people he knows as they no longer are useful to him and he does not care what they think of him. This is most evidenced by the fact that Maksim eventually does develop a bad image of Pechorin after they meet for the last time. Pechorin there completely snubs Maksim because he has no reason to be friendly with the man.

    I believe that Pechorin understands almost completely his character. He knows that he attaches little importance to anything and that he will not ever truly find anything meaningful. He also knows that he will continue to try new pursuits and new ways of dealing with people as boredom forces him to try new things. These will give him temporary pleasure but in the end will make him sadder. This is shown by how he is happy to have successfully outwitted Grushnitsky’s plan and by his victory in seducing Mary. Yet he is sadder after the whole affair is over. He says: “I have been like the starving man who falls into a stupor from sheer exhaustion and dreams of luxurious foods and sparkling wines–exultingly he shovels in these ephemeral gifts of the imagination, and seems to feel better–but when he awakes the vision is gone . . . and redoubled hunger and despair remain!” He is aware of this cycle and is saddened by it, yet goes on because there is no better alternative. I believe that this is why he is prepared to risk death to foil Grushnitsky’s plan, as he does not have much to lose by dying. While he certainly does fear death, as evidenced by his thumping heartbeat noticed by the doctor before the duel, it is not so terrifying a thing as it is for most people.

    The one thing that I think Pechorin is wrong about is that he believes no one can understand him. Possibly when this was written someone like Pechorin was a rarity, and certainly even today there are very few people who care so little about life and are so bold to try the experiments like the ones Pechorin sets out for himself. However, at least in this day and age, it is very common for people to feel the way Pechorin does or at least to understand how someone could feel this way. Many people feel that there is an absence of meaning in life, and they thus attach little value to anything in their lives and become depressed and hopeless like Pechorin. While most of these people will probably not pursue new activities in an attempt to alleviate their boredom and will instead probably mope around, they are certainly capable of understanding Pechorin’s thought process and way of life. Pechorin seems to understand himself well but is wrong in assuming that he is so unique in having this view of life.

  12. Lisa Eppich
    March 2nd, 2009 | 8:10 pm

    “For a long time now I have been living by my reason, not my heart. I weigh and analyze my own emotions and actions with stern curiosity, but without sympathy. These are the two men in me—one lives in the full sense of the word, the other reasons and passes judgment on the first. The first will perhaps take leave of you and the world forever in an hour now: and the second…the second?” -Middle of June 16th

    The most interesting thing about this collection of stories, especially “Princess Mary,” is how much Pechorin buys into fate when he’s clearly the manipulator of his own life. The quote above is an example of how Pechorin thinks he has himself figured out, as he admits to having a calculating side opposite the one that lives “fully.” Pechorin is unapologetic in his manipulation of other people for his own enjoyment, first trying to overcome the princess’ anger as if it were a game, and then trying to take her away from Grushnitsky, and even asking “Can it be, that my sole mission on earth is to destroy the hopes of others?”
    However, whether or not he lives “fully” is debatable. To live fully has the implication that one decides to be unobstructed by anything else. Since Pechorin’s decisions usually seem cold and at the expense of others, it seems as though he has this covered. But, could he possibly believe that he lives fully if he constantly comes back to the idea that all of his actions aren’t really his fault, but a product of fate? He takes little to no responsibility for anything, saying “fate has somehow associated me with the lat act of other people’s tragedies,” which would mean that it’s not his fault that he killed Grushnitsky and that the princess becomes sick over he love and hate for him, fate has just designed him in such a way that he causes such events to occur. How could he believe that his actions are this bound, yet still believe that he can live “fully?” This comes full circle at the end of the story, when we remember that this whole scenario came about because Pechorin was too proud to have Mary hate him, and too proud to lose to Grushnitsky. Thus, Pechorin’s belief in fate is in no way in line with the way he really lives and acts, but serves as yet another excuse for him to act like he is the victim. More so, he becomes an even more dislikable character when we see just how much he believes himself to be this fated lonely wandering soul, constantly calling out for our sympathy by saying things like “part of me will leave you soon…” when really there is nothing to sympathize with other than the fact that he won’t own up to his own responsibilities and actions.
    While it was interesting to see more deeply into his own thoughts throughout these stories, we are largely left with the same obnoxious man we started out with. Pechorin would still be relevant today, as his rebellious character never really goes out of style, but more interestingly I think this piece is still relevant literature because there aren’t many pieces that give us this depth of internal insight of a character with such disregard for the world around him.

  13. Catherine Ahearn
    March 2nd, 2009 | 9:03 pm

    “Like a flower whose richest perfume goes out to meet the first ray of the sun. One must pluck it at that very moment and, after inhaling its perfume to one’s heart’s content, discard it along the wayside on the chance that someone will pick it up.”

    “On returning home I felt a vague longing. I had not seen her! She was ill! Have I actually fallen in love? What nonsense!”

    “You see for yourself that I cannot marry you… You see, I am playing, in your eyes, a most miserable and odious part and even this I admit- … However unfavorable the opinion you have of me, I submit to it. You see, I am base in regard to you.”

    Pechorin’s primary problem is the fact that he just wants to be happy but does not trust fate to take him to his happiness. He makes himself unhappy in the process of trying to keep those around him from hurting him. He uses Mary for what sick happiness he can gain from misleading her and does not keep her, Vera or Grushnitsky in mind.
    Pechorin does not think of anyone but himself, and in many respects the characters he treads on are slightly at fault themselves for letting him do so. By the end of the novel, and when it is too late go back and change what has already been done, Pechorin sees the pain he has caused Mary, who can barely walk without stumbling and decidedly hates him due to her love for him.
    He has deceived her, and yet he shows remorse. Pechorin’s remorse baffles me. If he did not love her, why does he care? Yet, if he did love her, his final words to her are irreconcilable because they are meant to purge her of her love for him. On a few occasions, Pechorin alludes to possibly having true feelings for Mary. These revelations often occur in the wake of Mary’s absence when he is able to see how much he enjoyed seeing her and misses her (#2).
    He has fallen in love with her. He has unexpected feelings toward her. Whether he likes it or not, he has developed an attachment to her that he did not foresee. Yet instead of being brave and admitting this to himself, instead of loving her as she should be loved, he hides his feelings behind denial and continues to deceive Mary while deceiving himself as well.
    Is his confession of his true intentions during their last encounter then the most moral thing he has done in the story? I think it is. He admits to what he has done, honestly and although rudely, he does not twist the facts as to make himself appear to be a better man. He says to her, “You know that I laughed at you? You must despise me.” He is more honest about his infractions than most can be, and I admire this honesty. His cruel motives for making her acquaintance lead to his love for her and subsequently lead to her love then hatred of him. She hates him and he accepts that.
    I suppose Pechorin’s contradictions could have no other effect but to lead to the contradictions of the reader (which is pretty obvious in my own post). But in short, Pechorin has lied to Vera in order to spare her from more pain. The fact that they once shared a love proves that he is capable of doing so again. Pechorin has faced his wrong doing with Mary by confessing his true intentions. He knows he cannot take back what he has done and does not torture Mary with empty attempts to rationalize what he has done to her. He is a base character and he says so. She hates him and he accepts that as what should be. These lessons are timeless.

  14. Jennifer Ridder
    March 2nd, 2009 | 10:22 pm

    “Women! Women! Who will understand them? Their smiles contradict their glances, their words promise and lure, while the sound of their voices drives us away. One minute they comprehend and divine our most secret thoughts, and the next, they do not understand the clearest hints.”
    Lermontov writes this through the character of Pechorin in 1839. As I read this quote and most of his observations on women, I laughed. Not out of thinking his remarks absurd or old-fashioned but in their remaining relevance. Have men not stopped thinking this way? Indeed most girls my age have often heard a man observe of a woman, “I like her but she drives me nuts”. Or “girls are crazy”; particularly when they interpret a man’s action as entirely different than he intended. Pechorin is writing of the aggravations men feel both then and now with women. Perhaps this is not the most academic reference, but for example in the movie, He’s Just Not That Into You, one of the female characters interprets making chip dip at a boys’ party as an invitation to be his girlfriend. Although, the movie tends to exaggerate reality, it still describes the ongoing relationship and miscommunications between men and women. As I read Pechorin’s quote from more than 150 years ago, I felt relieved. At least, it is not a new phenomenon even if it is just stereotypes.
    However, in our day in age, we believe that this struggle between the contradictory attitudes men feel towards women will end when he finds the “right” girl and falls in love. Perchorin makes no pretense of this occurring. He has no desire for love or marriage, “I often wonder why I’m trying so hard to win the love of a girl I have no desire to seduce and whom I’d never marry.” He sees women, as a romantic conquest but is still listless in the outcome. He only contradiction in Pechorin’s attitude to women is the memory of his genuine feelings for Vera, who is perhaps attracted to his indifference for desire of winning his interest. At the end of “Princess Mary” one is presented with a moment where we think Lermontov is going to lead us to our modern cliché as he gallops after Vera. Yet Lermontove does not provide the happy ending and allows the reader to see that this ending would be superficial and so fate pushes the horse to collapse and Perchorin looses the energy to be her “knight in shining armor”. Pechorin does not even dwell on his tragedy, rather becomes ever the cynic, “I saw how futile and senseless it was to pursue lost happiness. What more did I want? To see her again? For what?” In this sense I admire Perchorin, at least he does not try to make his fantasy out to be more than what it is a game for himself.

  15. Ashley Quisol
    March 2nd, 2009 | 11:06 pm

    “I entered that life after having already lived it in my mind, and I became bored and disgusted, like one who would read a poor imitation of a book that he has long known.” (pg.189)

    The question is not whether or not Pechorin is lying to himself (this being evident in many of the comments above,) but rather why? From where does this incessant need to live a life that is contradictory to his emotions (i.e. denying his love for Vera) come?

    Fate and predestination seem to play constant roles in the life of Pechorin and it is for these reasons that mortality and death are always at the back of his mind; he has accepted it as a fact that he will die, has made peace with it, and has decided to live his life to the “fullest.” This acceptance of mortality causes Pechorin to view his life on earth only as a means to create his “immortality,” or rather, stories that will live on after he has passed. Pechorin refers to this sense of immortality when reading a book and wonders if the author is “not paid for every glad minute of his book in heaven?” (160) This clear reverence for the immortality of the written word in turn causes Pechorin to be the author of his own story, and in living it, he tries to make his tale as interesting as possible in order to create a captivating read.
    This desire to create an interesting story explains many of Pechorin’s choices: his rash acts of bravery, wooing Princess Mary (among other women,) placing the duel in a dramatic topographical setting, constantly describing the clouds of that moment, etc. We have always discussed how many boys want to be Pechorin after reading his memoirs, and this is proof that Pechorin has achieved a bit of his goal. The fact that Pechorin wants his tale to be one of adventure and action also explains why he is so emotionally distant from love and close friendships: since his days on earth are numbered, he cannot risk loosing his freedom and therefore ending his adventure. He even directly relates marriage to death and says that his fate is to be killed by his wife.
    Though Pechorin escapes from emotion (mostly love and compassion) and fills his life with adventure in its place, how can it be that he is so insatiably bored?
    Since Pechorin lies to himself and denies his emotions (his love for Vera) the superficial lifestyle that perpetuates is empty and unfulfilling; he lacks passion and love for what he does because he is so afraid of loosing his freedom that he never commits to anything or anyone. This life, void of meaning, leaves Pechorin constantly traveling and searching for something more.

  16. Stewart Moore
    March 2nd, 2009 | 11:57 pm

    Although it doesn’t have anything in particular to do with fate or chance, I especially liked the line, “Every memory of past sorrow or joy sends a pang through my heart and invariably strikes the very same chords.”

    In this diary, we received a little different view of Pechorin, although most of his actions and thoughts are still ‘distasteful’ to our present society. But Pechorin assures me he is indeed a human being with some life left in him by quotes like this, even if he would never make this public on his own accord.

    Of course this quote show that Pechorin does indeed feel something in his life. Memories either of sorrow or joy do stir some emotion in his soul. And I find it quite believable and fitting that memories of sorrow and joy strike the same chords. Pechorin is reflecting on a time past. A time when he could have evolved into another type of man (although perhaps the man he is is his destiny). When recollecting about the past, everything is the same to him. I understand this to mean he feels the same because he understands he cannot change the past by reflecting on it.

    Whether good or bad, Pechorin can never return to his past, thus the two create only one emotion. This idea has also struck me. I do not wish to really tell anything about my life on a public blog, but I will say remembering ‘good times’ does not always make me happy. Often it can have the reversal effect. When thinking about the past joy, I am only more aware of the present’s failure to have that joy. When remembering past sorrow, I would generally feel the same.

    I suppose this leads one to think that perhaps only happiness can be found in the present or in future hopes, but if our destinies are already set in writing maybe we should let events happen rather than hoping or worrying. After all hoping or worrying won’t add days to our lives if our lives are already determined.

    All these thoughts go through Pechorin’s mind, and perhaps that is why he is so detatched from ordinary aspects of life. Maybe fate is his excuse to do the things he does, play with and break people’s hearts for no reason. Because after all, then he would not really have any control over his actions; he cannot fight fate. What happens happens.

  17. Sophie Clarke
    March 3rd, 2009 | 1:04 am

    Professor Beyer asks: “Is he honest with himself?”

    Let us treat “he” and “himself” as two different personalities, in the way that Pechorin views himself as two different people:

    “There are two men in me—one lives in the full sense of the word, the other reasons and passes judgment on the first”

    Is “he,” (the Pechorin that writes, reflects, and passes judgment in the journal) honest with himself (the Pechorin that “lives in the full sense of the word”)?

    NO! Throughout the journal, Pechorin masks his true feelings during his life experiences and alters them to make him appear more like the macho, strong, superior man he thinks he should be. Every time he is overcome by emotion or shows any weakness, his alter-judgmental ego attributes it to “frayed nerves,” “sleepless nights,” an “empty stomach,” or sudden “madness.”

    As readers, we are able to distinguish between Pechorin’s true feelings (like when he is frightened to die, shaken up after killing a man, or frightened of loosing his love) and his judgments.

    Our ability to do this comes from the few hidden, indirect clues to Pechorin’s true feelings that his alter-hard, emotionless, cynical ego neglects to account for.

    Patrick points out one clue: Pechorin’s changing descriptions of nature. At times of high emotions, Pechorin describes the beauty of the mountains, trees, lakes, etc… And, these descriptions give insight into how he is actually feeling. However, when Pechorin, as an author, is reflecting, his descriptions are less colorful, and more controlled:

    “Outside, the gray clouds have concealed the mountains to their very base. The sun looks like a yellow blotch through the mist…. The wind is sighing… how wearisome it all is!”

    Other clues to Pechorin’s true character (not the front he puts on in his journal writings,) are scattered throughout the story. After he kills a man, his eyes “involuntarily close.” The eyes of Pechorin, the author, would feel no remorse or guilt (as the living Pechorin does) after killing, and would instead stare at the dead body in pride.

    I was shocked to see so much hatred towards Pechorin in the blogs above. Yes, the man commenting on the life of Pechorin is despicable, arrogant, and disgusting. But, Cathy, can you really say that Pechorin, the character, does not “think of anyone but himself?” He is the man who “prayed, cursed, cried, and laughed” in despair over Vera, his love.

    The relationship between the two (Jekyll and Hyde) Pechorin’s can be seen clearly in this excerpt from the story:

    “I lay there for a long time motionless and cried bitterly, without trying to check the tears and sobs. I thought my heart would be torn apart. All m resolution, all my composure vanished like smoke—my spirit was impotent, my reason paralyzed, and had someone seen me at that moment he would have turned away in contempt”

    That “someone” in the above quotation is Pechorin, the author of the journal, himself.

    How is this all relevant today? If the above convinces you that Pechorin, the character, at his heart, had good intentions, then we are facing a timeless (and almost spiritual) question:

    What is more important? Deeds or good intentions?

  18. Matthew Lazarus
    March 3rd, 2009 | 1:52 am

    “My whole life has been a mere chain of sad and futile opposition to the dictates of either heart or reason.” (11 May)

    This is melodrama by Pechorin – and do supply the vocal inflection of a Calvin Klein advert – at its finest. He’s managed to encapsulate his entire miserable situation into the pitting of heart and reason, humanity’s ying and yang so to speak, against HIM in the form of what even he seems to admit comes across as a most pathetic rebellion. Yet Pechorin wishes to convince the reader that his situation is at the same time tragic and worthy of sympathy.

    Now hold on one second young fella. Let’s why not just assess the validity of this statement. Pechorin undergoes lengthy bouts of self-imposed psychoanalysis. He bemoans his situation and disparages himself for lines on end. Are we going to accept this? Honestly, what does this guy really have to bitch about? He’s cool, sharp, clever, a bit quirky I should say, and (consequently) not bad at all with the ladies. This last bit rests on his conscience a great deal. I’ll admit, I sympathize with Pechorin. I feel his pain. I can absolutely tell you how much of a burden it is to have the ability to make women fall in love with you left and right, at will. It’s just not fun after awhile. And that’s what Pechorin was seeing in his relationship with Mary. It seemed as if he had the most fun in his conversations with Grushnitsky early on while that poor sap still thought he had a chance. At that time Pechorin really had something on Grushnitsky, and it was like he got his kicks from on one hand making Grushnitsky feel inferior as a man, while on the other hand reassuring Grushnitsky that Mary yeah she totally wants you dude you’re golden man just wait. Pechorin that son of a gun he knew the whole time he was going to sneak in there and steal Mary right out from under Grushnitsky at the last second. Anyone could see he had a thing for her. He talked about her like she was a thoroughbred horse.

    Is the guy who famously said, “I don’t care for women with a mind of their own–it doesn’t suit them!” finally going to reap what he harvests? The guy who called himself at one point a “perfect dandy?” That’s the bizarre part about Pechorin – one minute he’s basking in the glory of his awesomeness and the next minute he’s questioning every little piece of his lifestyle. Sure he’s a sweet talker, but it’s a defense mechanism through and through. He relies essentially on a certain, natural flair of the living, which he has cultivated and honed over time into the ladykilling compadre-slaying package seen at work in the journal entries. He exhibits shocking levels of self-confidence when he is around Mary, tuned to every flutter of a reaction he receives, and yet when he gets in that critical state of mind, he questions the basis for all of his actions and immediately sees the worst in his behavior. I just don’t understand why he goes so inexpressibly hard on himself, and if he knows the root of his problems as well as he seems to, why then doesn’t he change? And he doesn’t. In the end he’s still fumbling about in metaphysical talk, when metaphysical talk got him into this tizzy in the first place.

  19. Matthew Rothman
    March 3rd, 2009 | 4:07 am

    “Werner is in many respects a remarkable man. He’s a skeptic and a materialist like most medical men, but he’s also a poet, and that quite seriously–a poet in all his deeds and frequently in words, though he never wrote two verses in his life. He has studied the vital chords of the human heart the way men study the ligaments of a corpse, but he had never been able to make use of his knowledge just as a splendid anatomist may not be able to cure a fever. As a rule, Werner secretly laughed at his patients, yet once I saw him cry over a dying soldier.”

    My response refers to Pechorin’s entire description of Werner, although the three entire paragraphs seemed a bit excessive, so I’ve excerpted a part that I particularly like. I believe that in the character of Werner it is not difficult to imagine a reflection of Pechorin; however, Pechorin himself seems unwilling to recognize the comparison. Even as he recognizes the ready-made ability of each to identify with the other, Pechorin seems determined to hold Werner at arm’s length in an attempt to observe him and glean both knowledge and amusement from his character. I admit to laughing aloud at the line, “Perhaps that is why men like Werner love women so passionately.” Practically every description of Werner that Pechorin provides proves apt for describing the journal’s author.

    The two “companions” (as Pechorin points out, they cannot be “friends”) possess a form of understood and implied arrogance through which all of their engagements are filtered. For me, Pechorin’s presentation of Werner, in spite of his failure to see himself in Werner, rings decidedly true. The relationship between the two is a realistic portrayal of the relationship between any two young, arrogant, confident males. Their engagement is personal precisely in how impersonal the two try to remain. They place a stock value in their interactions by which they affirm their own superiority over the subjects of their conversation as well as casual onlookers. The two are deliberately philosophical to such a degree that their conversations are trite. Certainly their interactions are pretentious, but they avoid the issue altogether by being deliberately pretentious. Perhaps in the same way that Lermontov fends off criticism that his main character is immoral by observing the fact in the introduction, Pechorin and Werner display their pretensions openly and delight in them.

  20. Susanna Merrill
    March 3rd, 2009 | 9:41 am

    “Yet it pleases me that I am capable of weeping. It may have been due, however, to upset nerves, to a sleepless night, to a couple of minutes spent facing the muzzle of a pistol, and to an empty stomach.
    Everything is for the best! That new torment produced in me, to use military parlance, a fortunate diversion. Tears are wholesome, and then, probably, if I had not gone for that ride, and had not been compelled to walk ten miles home, that night, too, sleep would not have come to close my eyes.”

    I was especially impressed by the clumsy self-deception of this passage. There’s something almost touchingly childish about Pechorin’s insistence that he is not a human being, he does not have genuine emotions, and his happiness does not depend on a woman. This man has just ridden a horse into the ground, spent at least an hour in an emotional frenzy, and lain on the ground weeping like a child; his emotions seem extraordinary, passionate, and very real. Furthermore, they are fully warranted: he has just killed a man over one woman whom he does not love but is miserable over him, and the woman he loves has just broken off their affair in a very heart-rending letter that seems very much like a suicide note. His protest that his display of feeling, feeling related to the good of another person, is nothing but “nerves” and that, far from being concerned with his feeling in an serious way, he is satisfied with them for their soporific effect, is a little disingenuous.

  21. Adam Levine
    March 3rd, 2009 | 9:49 am

    ‘Mon cher,’ I answered trying to copy his manner, ‘je méprise les femmes pour ne pas les aimer, car autrement la vie serait un mélodrame trop ridicule.’ (Nabokov translates the French into English: “I despise women in order not to love them, since otherwise life would be too ridiculous a melodrama.”)

    This quotation, featured in Pechorin’s diary on May 11, strikes me as a phrase that exposes the protagonist’s dishonesty with himself, yet affirms his power of observation. Clearly, Pechorin does not “despise women in order not to love them” – his infatuation with Princess Mary and his affair with Vera oppose this statement, and although he gradually loses the romantic emotions that accompany love (multiple times throughout the novel), it is apparent that this is a cyclical reaction for him – his passion will continue to rise and fall. Thus, if this statement contains any truth for Pechorin, it is at most temporary. Following the tale of Bela, this declaration makes sense as a personal revelation, but the subsequent tale of Princess Mary shows that the “hero” is far from detesting women.

    Although the protagonist lies to himself regarding his feelings towards women, he is nonetheless acute in his observations. The idea of life being “too ridiculous a melodrama” well reflects Lermontov’s entire novel. Pechorin’s relationship with Bela becomes overly romanticized as the young man struggles desperately to win over the girl’s affection, but this melodramatic effect does not subside when he begins to lose interest in her. In fact, Pechorin’s lack of care causes Bela to react even more ornately. However, in “Princess Mary,” Pechorin’s romantic situation and personal values lead him to duel Grushnitsky, and the inclusion of a such a dramatic and violent event calls attention to the cause of such agitation: love. Thus, in this story, Pechorin’s statement appears true, and his inability to follow his own guidance proves to be a mistake.

    Such a comment begs one to question the elements of melodrama that pervade human life: are they all connected to love? Couldn’t one consider an approach of “despising women” just as exaggerative and overemotional as “loving women”? I like this quotation because it compacts many questions regarding Pechorin’s character, and the fact that the phrase is spoken in French heightens its emotional spark and further reflects its own content.

  22. Natalie Komrovsky
    March 3rd, 2009 | 10:30 am

    I found these three quotes very interesting, and I think they reveal much about Pechorin’s approach to women. The first is an excerpt from 16 May, after Pechorin talks to Vera.
    “It has always struck me as odd that I had never become the slave of the woman I loved. On the contrary, I’ve always acquired an invincible sway over their will and heart, without any effort on my part. Why is that? Was it because I’ve never particularly treasured anything and they’ve been afraid to let me slip out of their hands for a moment? Or was it the magnetic appeal of a strong personality? Or simply because I’ve never met a woman with enough strength of character?

    I must admit that I don’t care for women with a mind of their own–it doesn’t suit them!”

    Here is another, from 23 May:
    “The remainder of the evening I spent with Vera, and we talked our fill about the past. I really don’t know why she loves me so. Especially since she’s the only woman who has ever completely understood me with all my petty frailties and evil passions . . . Can evil indeed be so attractive?”

    And the last, from 3 June:
    “I often ask myself why it is that I so persistently seek to win the love of a young girl whom I do not wish to seduce and whom I will never marry. Why this feminine coquetry?”

    I think through these main quotes, and a spattering of other offhand comments Pechorin makes about Vera and Princess Mary, he is fairly honest with himself about why he pursues certain women, or certain things in general. He doesn’t really have aims or interests. He knows he’s just playing a game. Earlier in his diary, he made a comment about how when he spoke to Werner, the doctor, they mostly talked at each other instead of to each other, and even after an entire evening of BS, they recognized what was going on and nevertheless parted pleased with their evening. All of this Pechorin says, indicating that he doesn’t really take himself that seriously.

    However, despite all of this, and even though he claims to not take himself seriously, and not care about these women, I think underneath it all there’s an emotional void, driven by insecurity and his need to be liked, that causes him to be attached to women and care about what people think more than he lets on. He described how he felt about Vera when they first parted, saying it tore at his heart and hurt as much as it did the last time they parted. In addition, if he were really not that attached to Princess Mary, he never would have dueled with Grushnitsky, someone he considered a “friend”. Clearly this woman meant more to him than he was willing to admit.

    So that entry was a little confusing. I suppose I’m saying that through his writing, it appears that he’s honest with himself and can accurately analyze his own character, but in reality, he’s unable to embody that careless and detached figure he so desperately wants to be.

  23. Gabriel G Suarez
    March 3rd, 2009 | 11:42 am

    It’s remarkable how my, and many of our, views of Pechorin have changed. In the first three stories of this book, he was insufferable, pseudo-intellectual, unoriginally pretentious moron. But in the last two stories, “Princess Mary” and “The Fatalist,” we see that there is a method behind this man, and it goes beyond a simple “keep it quiet, keep it cynical, keep it mysterious, keep it desirable.”

    What I mean to say, and indeed what is inspiring me to say this, is that I feel an uneasy familiarity with many of the thoughts and witticisms Pechorin confesses in his diary. Among my favorites is this one:

    “I never confide my secrets; I like them to be divined; because then, in case of need, I can deny them.”

    Maybe it’s all of us, or maybe it’s just me (because Pechorin is the only person I’ve ever heard admit this,) but this is exactly how I feel. Inasmuch as anything genuine that we say offers a glimpse into our souls (I believe that today it’s more well-received to call them “minds,”) this reflects an uncertainty, a fear of who we are and how we are received. Even the cool, the certain, the stridently independent, the insufferable, like Pechorin, fear that their secrets will not be accepted. And forget “not accepted by ‘society’,” we’re dealing with a diary, in which he relates this fear to his closest friend, the man who can divine his thoughts!

    As for the significance of this, much can be said about how it keeps us apart, and ascertains our individuality. But–and correct me if this only applies to Pechorin and me–if we all have these feelings, is it really Pechorin who is so odious? We all put on airs. Fortunately for us, people like Pechorin exist, and they make us seem less horrible by comparison. But these airs, simultaneously universal and parochial, build upon themselves, layer upon layer, like kinetic energy in an explosion: heat creates more heat, as airs create more airs (and air makes more heat, ahaha.)

    Sorry for the awful pun.

    Soon, we have a situation where we’re all “individuals” with our own desires, and characters, and tastes, showing off to each other, no better than peacocks. Little snowflakes that make each other jealous, we desire and we laugh and we cry, because someone else did something sexy or funny or mean, and it’s all a game, airs upon airs. And then we criticize Pechorin? He’s only so marginally worse than us, and at least he can admit that our worst nightmare is that someone might know us so well, that we can’t deny anything. And where Honesty, true Sincerity, exist, airs cannot. And when airs are blown away, we are hermits. And there’s no glory or ambition in hermits.

    I don’t mean to paint Pechorin as an honest hero. He hasn’t achieved any sort of transcendence, and he refuses to let Werner any further into his secrets than he feels comfortable. But at the very least, he’s exposed the chunk of “Pechorin the Uniquely Repulsive” that resides in all of us, in all generations. Wow, Lermontov.

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