Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 266
The characters of "The Bronze Horseman" are:
Peter the Great: Peter appears briefly in the introductory section of the poem. He stands at the edge of the Neva River and contemplates the building of his great city. This great city is, of course, St. Petersburg, which Peter trusts will stand as a strong defense against the Swedish forces.
Yevgeny: Yevgeny is the protagonist or hero of Pushkin's poem. He is a clerk. The narrator does not mention Yevgeny's last name. Yevgeny's main concern is his ability to provide for the family he hopes to have with Parasha, his lady love. When Parasha presumably drowns in the flood, Yevgeny is grief-stricken. In his madness, he confronts the Bronze Horseman (the statue of Peter the Great on a horse). To Yevgeny, Peter is responsible for Parasha's death. At the end of the poem, Yevgeny's corpse is found at the threshold of Parasha's dilapidated hut. Accordingly, his body has been washed up on the shores of the island, where Parasha's hut is located.
Parasha: Parasha is Yevgeny's fiance. She drowns in the great flood. There is little about Parasha in the poem, however. Instead, her death is a symbol for the deaths of the unlucky masses living near the shores of the Neva. Powerless against the raging waters of the Neva, many like Parasha perished in the flood.
The Bronze Horseman: The Bronze Horseman is a statue depicting Peter the Great on a horse. In the poem, the horseman is described as a majestic statue. Yevgeny confronts the statue and imagines being pursued by the horseman all night along.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 557
Peter the Great
Peter the Great (the Bronze Horseman), the historical figure Peter the First, known in the West as Peter the Great. He ruled Russia from 1682 until his death in 1725. An enormous man of vast talents and brutal rages, he set out to make Russia a truly European power by sheer force of will and imperial decree. His reforms affected every aspect of government—military, administrative, and fiscal—and every aspect of society and culture. This meant that, among other changes, centuries-old habits of dress and manner sanctified by religious custom were ordered cast aside in favor of Western styles. The czars hitherto had been perceived as God’s righteous, anointed rulers, the embodiment of all that was Orthodox Russia. Such decrees as Peter’s therefore led many to believe that he was an impostor, perhaps even the Antichrist himself. No act was more symbolic of the cataclysmic changes Peter brought on Russia than was his founding of a new capital, St. Petersburg, in 1703, the act with which the poem begins. In his role as creator and conqueror, he chooses a site well suited to his strategic and political aims but utterly unsuited to human habitation. The marshy delta of the Neva River is unformed, unstable land, a floodplain that will claim thousands of lives as the capital is being built and later thousands more from disease and natural disaster. What Peter sees is a fortress, a port, an elegant city, a “window hacked through to Europe.” One hundred years later, the Bronze Horseman, French sculptor Falconet’s equestrian statue that stands on the granite-faced bank of the conquered Neva, takes over for the flesh-and-blood emperor. Commissioned by Catherine the Great as a tribute to Peter, it stands on a single piece of Finnish granite sculpted to suggest a wave. The statue’s only flicker of reaction to human concerns comes when crazed Evgeny turns to threaten it, and it descends—or seems to descend—from its pedestal to pursue the man through the deserted city streets for one long terrifying night.
Evgeny, a poor clerk in the machinery of government introduced by Peter. The author gives him no last name, and he might well be no more than an anonymous drudge, like thousands of others in the imperial capital, except that he is descended from an ancient and noble family whose glory days have long since ended, thanks in part to Peter’s reforms. Evgeny, however, is neither bitter nor ambitious, though he vaguely regrets not being smarter or better connected. His hopes are much more modest than his lineage, and he dreams of making enough money to settle down with his beloved Parasha and rear a family. Even these humble dreams, however, are swept away by the great flood of 1824. Although Evgeny escapes with his life, the loss of Parasha drives him to madness. His brief spark of rebellion against Peter and his city is quickly extinguished.
Parasha, the girl Evgeny intends to marry. She and her mother live in a tiny house on one of the Neva’s many islands, home to the humbler folk of the city. She is neither seen nor heard directly, but both her presence in Evgeny’s thoughts and her sudden, shocking absence are crucial. Her disappearance in the flood sends Evgeny into grief and madness.