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Byronism in Lermontov’s A hero of our time Cameron, Alan Harwood


Although Mikhail Lermontov is commonly known as the "Russian Byron," up to this point no examination of the Byronic features of A Hero of Our Time, (Geroy nashego vremeni)3 has been made. This study presents the view that, while the novel is much more than a simple expression of Byronism, understanding the basic Byronic traits and Lermontov1s own modification of them is essential for a true comprehension of the novel. Each of the first five chapters is devoted to a scrutiny of the separate tales that make up A Hero of Our Time. The basic Byronic motifs of storms, poses and exotic settings are examined in each part with commentary on some Lermontovian variations on them. The secondary figures, heroines, "pashas," villains and others are also assessed against Byronic tradition. Finally, the different presentations of Pechorin, the main figure, are analyzed and evaluated to determine how the hero is and is not "Byronic." To ascertain exactly what the hero's Byronic features might be, I have used^P.J. Thorslev's system of prototypes for the Byronic hero, who could have any or all of the traits of the Child of Nature, the Hero of Sensibility or the Gothic Villain. By determining how Pechorin fits into these categories, it is easy to see in what way he resembles a Byronic hero. The first chapter deals with Princess Mary and shows how Pechorin's love of nature, egocentric sensitivity and nostalgic musings are part of the Byronic mainstream, yet how his cruel penchant for evil constitutes a modification. Chapter Two, on Beta, demonstrates Lermontov's alterations of the fundamental Byronic love formula; in the next chapter; which concerns Maksim Maksimych I have shown how the focal point of that story, Pechorin's external description, is strikingly Byronic. Chapter Four presents a new interpretation of Taman ' as a parody on the heroic myth of infallibility. The second last chapter points out how the Byronism of The Fatalist is filtered through the actions of the story and how Pechorin reconciles the belief in his own free will with the concept of fatalism. Chapter Six concludes the study with a view of the novel as a whole and a summation of the Byronic features of A Hero of Our Time,

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