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"A Hero of Our Time". Are You Really a Hero?


Knowledge of the historical originality of time, when the artistic work was conceived and created, allows us, readers, to understand it more deeply to see analogies with the present. Thus, acquaintance with the post-decembrist period of the history of Russia makes it possible to understand essence of the novel under consideration. You can always order the review of any book and more on

The worldview of the poet was formed in the "age of timelessness", when there was no trace of the ideals, goals, the meaning of the life of the progressive ideas of Pushkin's time.

The action became impossible: Nicholas I rejected the idea of any revolution unconditionally, because noble impulses carried not only the desire for a just peace, but also the way for a violent change in state power accompanied by bloodshed. In the conditions of the reaction, any dissent was to be destroyed.

Impossibility of activity was also subjective: ideological crisis, the lack of an answer to the question of new ideals and ways of acting for the benefit of people, and this gave rise to skepticism and cast doubts in the minds of thinking people.

Old ideas were gone, new ones were not born yet, there was no clarity of purpose. It was at this time that this novel was created, the problem of personality in which was dominant.

History of Creation

Lermontov's only complete novel has a rather complicated and contradictory story of creation. It is known that it was preceded by other experiences of the writer in prose. Even before his departure to the Caucasus in 1836, the author began to work on the novel "Princess Ligovskaya" from the life of the St. Petersburg society of the 1830s, in which the characters of his future work appear for the first time – Pechorin and Vera Ligovskaya.

Work on the novel was interrupted in 1837, and after the poet's expulsion from the capital to the south, Lermontov begins work on the book, where a hero with the same name is depicted, but the scene changes – it is transferred from the capital to the Caucasus.

In the fall of 1837, rough drafts were made to "Taman" and "Fatalist". In 1838-1839, the author continues to work actively on the book. First, the story "Bela" was published with the subtitle "From Memoirs of an Officer on the Caucasus" in the journal in March 1839, then the reader got acquainted with the story "Fatalist" in November, and "Taman" appeared in February 1840.

At the same time, work on the rest of the book continues ("Maxim Maksimych" and "Princess Mary"), which appeared entirely in the April issue of the journal for 1840. The name of the book was suggested by the publisher of the journal Krayevsky, who recommended the author to replace the former one "One of the heroes of our century", which resembled the name of the novel "The confession of the son of the century" (1836), written recently by the French writer A. Musset.

At the beginning of 1841, the book appeared in a separate edition, in which another preface was introduced (the preface to the Pechorin’s journal was already included in the first edition). It was written in response to hostile critical articles that appeared in print. In response to reproaches in the artificiality of the main hero’s character and the evaluation of this hero as slander for a whole nation, the author writes in the foreword that this is a portrait of more than one person: this portrait is composed of all vices of all people in their full development. Thus, Lermontov confirmed the realistic orientation of the work.

Features of Romanticism

These features consist in a special proximity of the author and the hero, narrative lyricism, close attention to the "inner human", vagueness of the past of the main hero, uniqueness of his nature and many situations, the heightened expressiveness of the style. So, the image of Pechorin is shrouded in a halo of mystery up to the confessional second part of the novel, when the situation clears up more or less. We can only guess what life circumstances affected the formation of his character, why he was exactly here, etc.

However, this is basically the realistic work. First of all, realistic tendencies in the novel are connected with objectivity of the author's position in relation to the hero, in which Lermontov's novel resembles Pushkin's "Eugene Onegin". It is obvious that the main hero and the creator are not one and the same person, although they are closer to each other than Onegin and Pushkin. In the preface to the novel, the author emphasizes this idea.

The realism of the novel is also in the formulation of the most important problems of our time and the creation of the image of the "hero of time", a typical representative of the era – "superfluous human". The novel's realism manifests itself in the author's desire to psychologically reliably and accurately explain the characteristics of the character's nature, connecting them with the conditions of the surrounding life. Others, secondary, characters of the novel are also typical. The relationship between an individual and society are recreated in it in all their complexity and contradictions. Reality appeared here in different spheres, different types of life, characters, and from different points of view.

Genre Specificity

The genre specificity of Lermontov's work was also unusual and new. A special uniqueness of the genre nature of this work is the combination of realism features of socio-psychological novel and romanticism, which manifests itself in its construction and stylistics. This is the complete work, although it was made up of separate stories.

For the first time, it united socio-psychological and moral-philosophical problems. For philosophical and psychological penetration into the nature of the hero, synthesis of narrative genres was required: travel notes, essay, short story, psychological and philosophical story, diaries, confession. None of these forms, taken separately, was sufficient to explain the contradictory nature of modern human.

The first part of the novel – the novel "Bela" – is close to travel notes by genre, "Maxim Maximich" is a story, "Taman" is a romantic novel with an adventurous plot and an unexpected ending, and the largest part "Princess Mary" is a psychological story. The end of the work is the philosophical story "Fatalist", in which, according to laws of the genre, the plot is subject to disclosure of philosophical idea.

In addition, the preface to the Pechorin’s journal is an inset "document" necessary for the further development of the narrative about the hero, and the Pechorin’s journal itself is a kind of diary consisting of several parts in which the hero talks about different episodes from his life.

Another distinctive genre feature of Lermontov's novel is defined by words from the author's foreword: the history of human soul. They show a conscious attitude toward open psychology of the work. That is why it is the first psychological book in Russian literature, although psychology was inherent in other works that appeared earlier, such as the novel "Eugene Onegin".

The task that the author set for himself was not so much in portraying Pechorin's external life and his adventures, although this element is also present here. But the main thing is to show the inner life and evolution of the hero, for which a variety of means are used, including not only monologues, dialogues, internal monologues, psychological portrait and landscape, but composition itself.

The Plot and Composition

This book is not similar to a classic Russian novel, which is familiar to us from the second half of the 19th century. There is no end-to-end story line with an outset and a denouement, each of its parts has its own plot and the characters involved in it. And yet it is the integral work, united not only by one hero – Pechorin, but also by common idea and problem. It is the main character which all the main plot lines stretch to.

Thus, this is the work of the single hero. All the characters in it, being full-blooded artistic types, written out with different degrees of detail, are subjects to the task of revealing the character of the central hero.

This explains another feature of composition of the novel: its parts are located in violation of the chronological sequence of events. At the same time, there are various sources, from which we learn about Pechorin, as well as several narrators, who present events from different points of view.

The range of these points of view on the hero is very wide. First, in the story "Bela", we learn about Pechorin from a simple officer Maxim Maksimych, a kind, honest man who spent a long time together with the main hero and who is friendly to him, but quite different from him in spirit and upbringing. He can only note the peculiarities of the behavior of the "strange man", leaving mystery for him (and, therefore, for a reader).

In the story "Maxim Maksimych", the narrator changes: he is an officer, companion and listener of Maxim Maksimych in "Bela", who is obviously closer to Pechorin by age, development, social status, and most importantly – similar in spirit and mindset. He makes an attempt to somehow explain the peculiarities of this unusual person.

And finally, we get acquainted with the diaries of the hero, his peculiar confession, which allows us to see his soul as if from inside, through self-disclosure, thorough analysis and exposure of the underlying causes of the hero's behavior, the characteristics of his character.

Novel's construction allows a reader to gradually plunge into the hero's inner world and creates many acute situations, such as meeting the author with his future hero and premature (in terms of the plot) reports of his death.

From all this, it follows that composition is built not so much on connection of events as on analysis of Pechorin's feelings and thoughts, his inner world. Autonomy of the individual parts of the novel is largely determined by the author's chosen angle: he does not build up biography of the hero, but seeks to unravel the secrets of the soul, and the soul is complex, bifurcated, unfinished in a certain sense.

The history of such a soul does not lend itself to a rigorous, logically consistent presentation. Therefore, the order of the novels does not correspond to the sequence of events in the life of Pechorin. Thus, it can be said that composition of the novel plays a significant role in revealing his image, "the history of the human soul" since its general principle is in the movement from the riddle to the clue. It is one of the main means of creating a credible portrait of the hero.

Subjects and Problems

The main theme is a personality in the process of self-knowledge, the study of the spiritual world of a human. This is the theme of all Lermontov's works as a whole. In this book, it receives the complete interpretation in revealing the image of its central hero. From the middle of the 1830s, the author painfully searches for a hero who could embody the personality traits of a human of his generation. The author warns a reader against the unequivocal evaluation of this extraordinary personality.

Thus, the theme of the hero acquires new features associated not only with another era, but with a special angle of its consideration in the book: the writer poses a problem, the solution of which, as it were, he leaves to readers. As stated in the foreword, the author was simply interested to draw a modern human as he understands this concept, and who, to his and your misfortune, he met too often. The ambiguity of the title as well as the character of the central hero immediately generated controversy and various assessments, but fulfilled its main task: to focus on the problem of an individual, reflecting main content of this epoch, this generation.

Artistic Originality

Artistic innovation of the novel is due not only to combination of the features of romanticism and realism, the specificity of the genre, the plot and compositions. Having set himself the task of showing "the history of the human soul" and creating the first psychological novel, the creator faced the need to re-use traditional novel means in a new way.

It is his merit – the discovery of a special type of portrait, which became known as psychological portrait. This portrait connects appearance of the hero with the characteristics of his inner world, fixes details of appearance, carrying information about thoughts, feelings, experiences, moods of a person. It should also be noted that psychological portrait of Pechorin is based on antitheses and oxymorons: "strongly build" and "feminine tenderness" of pale skin, "dusty velvet coat" and "dazzling clean underwear" underneath, blonde hair and black eyebrows. Such portrait details are intended to emphasize complexity and inconsistency of this character's nature.

Scenery serves as a means of characterizing different characters. The attitude of the hero to nature is a measure of the depth and originality of his nature. Scenery sketches help understand his complex, rebellious nature and reveal smart soul organization. In his diary, he repeatedly gives almost poetic descriptions of the landscape that surrounds him.

Many other writers mentioned the beauty of Lermontov's prose. Famous language researchers and stylists gave the highest evaluation of the author's artistic skill.

The Meaning of the Work

Showing the whole inconsistency and complexity of such a person, the author opens the way in the evolution of this topic for writers of the second half of the XIX century. Of course, they reassess the type of the main hero in a new way, seeing, rather, weaknesses and shortcomings than virtues. And although the type of "superfluous human" belongs to the XIX century, the very problem of searching for the hero remains relevant not only in the XX century, but also in our time.

Artistic discoveries of the author are no less important. "A hero of our time" has played a significant role in the evolution of the genre form of a realistic social and psychological story. This path will then be followed by writers of the second half of the 19th century. The importance of the author for the subsequent development of literature was excellently described by L.Tolstoy: "If Lermontov were alive, neither I nor somebody else would be needed".

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