Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 478
The principal characters of Pushkin's "The Shot" are:
See eNotes Ad-Free
The Narrator. A military officer stationed "in the little town of N-----." He has little personal involvement in the main story line, but he meets and interacts with the characters who do carry out the crucial actions.
Silvio. A man whom the narrator meets while at camp; an ex-Hussar who is an expert shot. The interior walls of Silvio's quarters are riddled with bullet holes attesting to his constant practice in pistol shooting. He is the focus of the story; the narrator seems fascinated by him and at first considers him a mystery, a man with an unknown past that the narrator wishes to uncover.
"R." A drunken lieutenant who, in a game of faro, has a dispute with Silvio and hurls a brass candlestick at him. The other officers are astonished that Silvio does not "demand satisfaction" (challenge R to a duel) and allows the man to escape with a very "lame explanation" for his behavior.
The Count. A man who has had a dispute with Silvio some time earlier. When we first learn something about this, we are not yet told who the Count is, except that Silvio has known him earlier, in the army. An incident between them occurred as follows: the two men hated each other, and things came to a head at a ball when Silvio shouted an insulting remark in the Count's ear. The Count slapped his face, and the result was the inevitable duel.
In the duel, the Count is allowed the first shot but misses, with the bullet going through Silvio's cap. Silvio then declines his own shot, unable to kill the man (who is totally calm and indifferent to his fate) in cold blood.
All of this is related by Silvio to the narrator, perhaps as an explanation for why Silvio did not challenge the drunken R. When Silvio receives a letter that his former adversary is planning to be married, he sets off to find him and re-challenge him, doubting that the man is now going to be as indifferent to death as before.
Several years later the narrator has retired to a remote village, where a nearby estate turns out to be the property of this same Count and his wife. The Count then tells the narrator of his final meeting with Silvio. At this point, we will not disclose how that meeting turned out.
All of these characters are typical inhabitants of the Pushkin gallery: military men, nobles, men who drink heavily, and above all, men interested in shooting and dueling. In practically all of Pushkin's tales and narrative poems, a duel takes place or there is an allusion to one. Pushkin himself was killed in a duel, and his literary themes usually involve the issues of traditional male values, honor, and revenge. "The Shot" is no exception.