A Fallen Idol Is Still a God: Lermontov and the Quandaries of Cultural Transition

By Elizabeth Cheresh Allen | Go to book overview

Six
Post-Romantic Anomie I
A Hero of Our Time and Its Hero

A CRITICAL QUANDARY

In an epochal novel written during the transition out of Romanticism, an attractive, ambitious young man seeks his place in society. Distinctly more intelligent than virtually everyone else he encounters, he identifies himself with great Romantic heroes out of a sense of his own superiority, and he manipulates his inferiors. He excites both the admiration and envy of other men, and he readily seduces women both married and unmarried, driving one to her death. He triumphs in a variety of contests, including a duel. But while he condemns his society for its superficiality and self-deception, he desires a prominent place in it. And he remains unsure of the meaning and purpose of his life down to its end. He is a hero of his time.

Readers of European literature might know him as Julien Sorel, the pro tagonist of Stendhal's The Red and the Black [Le Rouge et le noir] (1830), which is subtitled A Chronicle of the Nineteenth Century. But they might also know him as Grigorii Pechorin, the protagonist of Lermontov's A Hero of Our Time.1 And the affinities between these two “heroes of their time”

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