What our your thoughts or reactions over the short story "The Blizzard"?

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"The Blizzard," like other stories by Pushkin, is marked by gothic elements but with an ironic twist, much like the far better-known "The Queen of Spades." It's a bit surprising that the story is not more serious and brooding in tone, as one might expect from an author who was the epitome of Russian Romanticism. Rather, the tale comes across as slightly humorous and whimsical—or at least seems so in translation.

In the story, a planned elopement goes awry, and through a quirk of fate the bride, Marya Gavrilovna, ends up marrying the wrong man. The impostor, Burmin, then disappears and returns some time later as a suitor, not recognizing Marya until he recounts to her the story of how through a case of mistaken identity he had been pulled into a church in a remote village and had gone through with a marriage ceremony, in effect as a prank, to an unknown girl, now revealed to be Marya.

If all of this sounds very improbable, it's because it is—but not much more so than other works of fiction from the period. One's reaction to the story is partly conditioned by one's knowledge of Russian literature and the themes repeatedly found in it, from Pushkin himself up through Pasternak and Solzhenitsyn. The central event of a snowstorm or blizzard, unsurprisingly, appears often in Russian stories. Here, as in Tolstoy's "Master and Man" a half-century later, the plot turns on the uncertainty of travel in the midst of such a storm. Yet the striking thing, again, is how much lighter in tone Pushkin is than others of his period and later, both Russian and non-Russian. The same material in the hands of his near-contemporaries Hoffmann, Poe, and Hawthorne, one feels, would have yielded a much more serious or even grim result.

Pushkin sets his story during the period just before, during, and after Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812. The victory over the French is an event that became central to the Russian consciousness and symbolic of Russian greatness. By incorporating the 1812 events in his story, however, Pushkin perhaps ironically uses them as a symbol of the way public and national events intersect with private lives, for good or ill. The conclusion of the story is an ambivalent one in which it is for the reader to decide (as usual) whether or not this is actually a "happy ending."

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