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Lermontov’s Paradox: an Analysis of Pechorin

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In Mikhail Lermontov’s novel A Hero of Our Time, the author brings out the irony surrounding various characters with Pechorin being at the center stage. The portrayal of Pechorin is viewed in the book as an exemplary Byronic anti-hero and Lermontov describes him as a typical man of his age. The author creates a hero who is both cynical and intelligent, who is honest but violent, not alive in an absolute meaning of this world, but also not dead yet, at least, not physical. In other words, Pechorin is a complex character full of contradictions. However, it is precisely with these contradictions that he appears as a human being whose life is a fight for the meaning. Pechorin is a very existential character. He understands his life as a senseless event. He wants to love women, but he spent life without giving them respect, and only taking love from them never giving anything back.

In one stage of the book, Pechorin clearly states that he does not know what he lives for, and this feeling of pointlessness is a source of his inner personal melancholia. Pechorin is doomed to die from the beginning because living a life of sensual pleasure and cynical self-reflection never actually experiencing a feeling of real unity with someone, and not knowing his true purpose no matter how smart and intelligent he was, Pechorin’s life aims at death at a highest possible pace. In one particularly interesting passage, he talks about himself in the following way: “What of it? If I die, I die. It will be no great loss to the world, and I am thoroughly bored with life. I am like a man yawning at a ball; the only reason he does not go home to bed is that his carriage has not arrived yet” (Lermontov, 36). This phrase of Pechorin shows two critical aspects of his complex character. Firstly, he comes to a point in his life when he considers death to be his only solution to the problems of life, and this desperation only further kills his inner light of real humanity, sensitive love, and spiritual power of the soul. Secondly, it says that Pechorin wrongly comprehended life as an entertainment and an exciting event comparing it to the ball. This attitude towards life is the reason why he lived most of his life wrong, becoming indifferent to the best that life can give, and never really be able to give anything in return. Pechorin himself exhausted his live spending it in a senseless pursuit of pleasure and sensual satisfaction. For him, women were entertainment, as the whole life was treated by him without real respect.

Pechorin began to understand all this being closer to his death which he predicts and feels closer to at the end of the story. He chooses death as the only thing to cure him of a pointless life and a tasteless existence. This mistake brings despair in the life of Pechorin as he no longer thinks that he can win in a battle against himself. Pechorin himself devaluated his life, spending it on the appropriate things. When he pursues Vera on a horse but then gives up, it is his feeling of existential fatigue that stops him as he no longer has the power to live being only illusively high intelligent, but unable to love with a real love and a partnership between a man and a woman: “I saw how futile and senseless it was to pursue lost happiness. What more did I want? To see her again? For what” (Lermontov, 42)? Pechorin understands that he does not deserve Vera and may be the reason for her suffering even though she understands him quite well. He does not want to use Vera as a beautiful woman without giving back to her what she deserves – a mutual all-encompassing, generous, sincere, and meaningful love. Pechorin simply doesn’t have it, but it is his awareness about this absence that makes him a good human being, a person worth of compassion and understanding.

Even though Pechorin accuses himself of being hateful, evil, and secretive, it is not so as he does that only due to a despair and not because of a real cruelty. As he states it: “I was ready to love the whole world–none understood me: and I learned to hate” (Lermontov 55). The paradox here is that Pechorin never actually tried to do that, and he thought that people should be grateful to him for him being so original, good, kind, etc. This setup again portrays Pechorin’s feature of showmanship.

Pechorin wanted to be understood by people and wanted to comprehend the most problematic, complex, and important thing in the life of any human being – purpose of the existence. Unable to find it and passing long into the wrong way, Pechorin felt lost and desired to quit everything at all. This is what many tragic, romantic, and existential characters are doomed to, as they alone try to do what most of the people never really thought, but it is precisely with people (and characters) as such that other can try to understand life better and give it more credit. Without any doubt, Pechorin appears as one of the most tragic, deep, and consistent romantic characters of the 19th-century literature.

Work Cited Lermontov, M. A Hero of Our Time. London: Planet, 2011. Print

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