Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Pushkin is more concerned with plot, point of view, and irony than he is with character development. To create suspense, he abruptly breaks the narrative at the climactic point when Vladimir arrives at the empty church. Not until the end of the story does the reader learn what he discovered there. The glorious return of the veterans from their defeat of Napoleon serves as the turning point; thereafter, the story moves toward an implied happy conclusion. There are, however, numerous coincidences and improbabilities that pave the way for that conclusion.

Seemingly because The Tales of Belkin was an experiment in prose fiction, Pushkin decided to publish it anonymously, attributing the authorship to a fictitious author, Ivan Petrovich Belkin, for whom he developed an elaborate biographical background. Scholar George Z. Patrick has pointed out a number of similarities between the “spiritual makeup” and biographical details of Pushkin and Belkin. Belkin’s personality, however, is basically different from Pushkin’s. Belkin is simple, artless, naïve; any flaws in the narrative can be attributed to him. Furthermore, Belkin indicates that he is merely recording narratives as told to him by someone else—in the case of “The Blizzard,” a Miss K.I.T. The strong element of girlish sentimentality can be attributed to her influence. The point of view is further complicated when a character in the story, Burmin, tells of his experience during the blizzard and thus solves the mystery of that fatal night.

Pushkin’s skill in ironic humor permeates the narrative. The snowstorm that keeps Vladimir and Marya apart ultimately produces her happiness; Marya’s parents finally agree to her marriage to Vladimir only to find that he is no longer willing to marry her; Marya is determined to elicit a marriage proposal from a man who, unknown to her, is already her lawful husband. The final ironic twist brings the story to a happy conclusion. Marya and Vladimir believed that their happiness would be complete when, after their elopement (so they planned), they threw themselves at the feet of her parents, receiving their forgiveness and blessing. Instead, Marya realizes this happiness when Burmin at the end throws himself at her feet to ask her forgiveness for his heartless prank four years earlier. The reader surmises that she forgives him and that their felicity is complete.