(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical 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.)