Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Pushkin lived in a time of transition for Russian literature, from Romanticism to realism. This story is a Romantic tale of fantasy told in a realistic manner. The author employs the techniques of classicism that would become the staple of the realistic short story: economy of words, elimination of superfluous detail, and emphasis on a single theme. As a result, the story moves quickly and keeps the reader’s attention directed to the main point.

The interest of the reader is also kept alive by the inclusion of elements of fantasy, especially the vision of the countess after her death. It is unclear whether the countess really appears or whether the drunken Hermann is merely imagining the entire episode. If the vision is a figment of his imagination, how is he able to win the first two times? Is it mere chance? Pushkin leaves clues, such as repeating, “It seems as . . . ” The puzzle is not conclusively answered, however, and each reader is able to draw whatever conclusion he or she wishes. By means of this technique, Pushkin not only retains one’s interest during the story but also keeps one thinking about the story long after the original reading.