Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
A Hero of Our Time is one of Russia’s greatest novels. All the characters, with the possible exception of Vera, are drawn with consummate art. In Pechorin, the novel’s hero, Lermontov gave the first psychological portrait of the literary archetype, the superfluous man. Lermontov analyzes Pechorin as a victim of the conditions he was doomed to live in, hence the ironic label, “hero of our time.” As a representative of the lost generation of the 1830’s, Pechorin’s creative genius finds no legitimate channel of expression and thus turns in on itself and grows destructive. In analyzing Pechorin, Lermontov analyzed the sickness of the age.
The first two of the five narratives, “Bela” and “Maxim Maximych,” show Pechorin through the eyes of others. “Princess Mary” is in the form of Pechorin’s diary, and “Taman” and “The Fatalist” record some of his adventures in the Crimea and the Caucasus.
In “Bela,” the bored Pechorin, stationed at a fort, becomes infatuated with the Tartar girl Bela, daughter of a local chieftain. He kidnaps her with the help of her own brother, whom Pechorin rewards with a horse stolen from the girl’s Tartar suitor Kazbich. Bela, frightened at first, falls in love with Pechorin, whereupon he loses interest in her. One day, she goes for a walk outside the walls of the fort and is mortally wounded by Kazbich. The story is told by Captain Maxim Maximych, who has befriended Pechorin....
(The entire section is 524 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
The Narrator meets Maksim Maksimich while on a return trip from Tiflis, the capital of Georgia, to Russia. The season is autumn, and in that mountainous region snow is already falling. The two men continue their acquaintance at the inn where they are forced to take refuge for the night. When the Narrator asks Maksim Maksimich about his experiences, the old man tells of his friendship with Grigoriy Pechorin, a Serbian who came from Russia about five years before to join a company of cavalry in the Caucasus.
To relieve their boredom on that frontier post, the soldiers played with Azamat, the young son of a neighboring prince. As a result of this friendship, the prince invited Maksimich and Pechorin to a family wedding. At that celebration, Pechorin and Kazbich, a bandit, met and were equally attracted to Bela, the beautiful young daughter of the prince. Azamat, observing this development, later offered to give Bela to Kazbich in exchange for the bandit’s horse. Kazbich laughed at the boy and rode away.
Four days later, Azamat was back at the camp and visiting with Pechorin, who promised to get Kazbich’s horse for the boy in exchange for Bela. The promise was fulfilled. Insane with rage at his loss, Kazbich tried to kill Azamat but failed. Suspecting that Azamat’s father had been responsible for the theft, Kazbich killed the prince and stole his horse in revenge for the loss of his own animal.
Weeks passed, and Pechorin became...
(The entire section is 1532 words.)