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Last Updated on September 6, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 430

Mikhail Lermontov’s The Demon is believed to have been inspired by Lermontov's life, with the character of the Demon mirroring many aspects of the poet’s emotional and psychological state. Lermontov’s tendencies to populate his works with the events and experiences of his own life is well documented by literary critics, with even his earliest works, such as the drama “Menschen und Leidenschaften,” being an obvious tribute to the family conflict by which his early life was characterized.

Lermontov was remembered by fellow students during his studies at Moscow University as snobbish and aloof, but he is also noted to have had a tendency to involve himself in instances of troublemaking, such as the expulsion of the controversial professor Malov by students in the year of 1831. Such characteristics are clearly observable in the figure of the Demon who, isolated and excluded by his own complicity in Lucifer’s rebellion, dedicates his time to spoiling, destroying, and generally being an inconvenience to humans and angels alike.

Lonely though he is, the demon is portrayed as powerful, both in his ability to perform supernatural acts of evil and in his eloquence in seducing the princess. Such a representation accords with Lermontov’s view of himself as charismatic, as possessing a sharp mind and a gift for words, an impression that was often vindicated by the responses of those with whom he interacted. For example, Nikolai Martynov, his onetime friend and eventual murderer, described him as

so far ahead of everybody else, as to be beyond comparison.

The romantic feelings the Demon has for Tamara also seem to mirror the poet’s preferences. The Demon might be read as a tribute to what is commonly understood to have been Lermontov’s first love affair, his unrequited affections for a girl during his childhood. Such an interpretation is supported by his exaggeration of Tamara’s innocence and youthful appeal, as well as her being ultimately beyond the Demon’s reach. Lermontov is kept from his first love by the barrier between the past and the present, just as the Demon is kept from Tamara by the barrier between mortality and immortality.

Like the Demon, Lermontov was a wanderer in both a physical sense, traversing much of Russia during his lifetime, and also romantically, in that he knew many intimate relationships during his life and found the majority of these frustrated in one way or another. Tamara’s recognition of his tortured soul, of the genuine nature of his love, is perhaps the recognition that Lermontov himself had always longed for yet never received.

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