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A Hero of Our Time (Russian: "Герой нашего времени") is a classical Russian novel by Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov, written and revised between 1839 and 1841.
The plot concerns a certain Grigory Pechorin, a Russian aristocrat, a military officer, and a Byronic Hero, and follows his adventures during his stay (implied to be involuntary) in the Caucasus Region. The novel consists of five parts (plus Framing Device):
- Bela. The Watson (implied to be Lermontov himself) meets an Old Soldier Maxim Maximich while traveling across Caucasus, who tells him a story how an old friend of his (Pechorin) once fell in love with and kidnapped a highlander princess (it didn't work out).
- Maxim Maximich. The Watson tells of a chance meeting between Maxim Maximich and Pechorin that he accidentally witnessed. Afterwards, Maxim Maximich hands over Pechorin's diaries to him.
- Taman. An excerpt from Pechorin's diary: soon after his arrival to Caucasus, he gets involved with a local Femme Fatale and a smuggler gang.
- Princess Mary. Pechorin is stationed in Pyatigorsk and has an affair with two women: an old flame of his and the eponymous princess. In the end, he kills a guy on a duel and is reassigned to Maxim Maximich's outpost.
- The Fatalist. Pechorin is out drinking and gambling with fellow officers, and then one of them shoots himself in the head on a bet. He dies but not by the bullet.
Lermontov also published a short essay The Caucasian (1840; as in "someone from Caucasus", not "pale-faced"), wherein he more or less describes Maxim Maximich's Backstory (without any names). Additionally, AHoOT can be seen as a sequel to his unfinished novel Princess Ligovskaya (1838), which also features Grigory Pechorin (who may or may not be the same character) and is set in St Petersburg.
- Author Avatar: Some interpret Pechorin as this.
- The Berserker: Pechorin has traces of this.
- Bus Crash: Pechorin is last seen in the narrative in Maxim Maximich while en route to Persia and the intro to his diary reveals that he died on the way back.
- Byronic Hero: Pechorin is one of the most famous ones in Russian literature. However, see Deconstructor Fleet below.
- Character Title:
- The novel title refers to Pechorin, whom the author considered a contemporary hero despite his major flaws.
- Bela, Maxim Maximich, and Princess Mary are all named after the characters whose life Pechorin has a major impact upon.
- The Fatalist is not so clear cut: according to various interpretations, it can refer to Vulich, Pechorin, or Maxim Maximich (or all at once but in different senses).
- Composite Character: The author intended Pechorin to be a composite of all the creative spirits of his age.
- Custom Uniform: Grushnitsky wears a Private's coat over his officer cadet uniform.
- The Dandy: Pechorin.
- Deconstructor Fleet: In Bela and Taman, Lermontov picks apart the "wacky Caucasus adventures" genre prominent during his time. The central character is a darker, more realistic take on the Byronic Hero archetype, and Grushnitsky is an outright mockery of the concept. The novel as a whole is regarded as the author's farewell to Romanticism.
- Duel to the Death: Double-subverted with Pechorin vs. Grushnitsky: Grushnitsky's friends persuade him to miss on purpose and try to load Pechorin's gun with a blank, but Pechorin uncovers their plan by chance and kills Grushnitsky.
- Femme Fatale: The "Undine".
- Foil: Grushnitsky to Pechorin.
- Genre Savvy: Pechorin seems to be completely aware of his Byronic Hero status.
- Idle Rich: More or less every aristocrat in the book.
- Intro-Only Point of View
- Life Will Kill You: Vulich survives shooting himself in the head unscathed, then is killed by a drunk Cossack returning home.
- Literary Agent Hypothesis: The nameless traveling officer who "inherits" Pechorin's diaries is never openly identified with Lermontov.
- Meaningful Name: Pechorin is named after the Pechora River, just like Alexander Pushkin's Eugene Onegin was named after the Onega River.
- An Officer and a Gentleman
- Old Soldier: Maxim Maximich.
- Patronymic: "Maximich" is actually a colloquial shortening of "Maximovich", "son of Maxim".
- The Place: Taman is named after a small Russian town on the coast of the Black Sea.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: Pechorin is sent into the wilderness after his duel with Grushnitsky. It is implied that he was reassigned to Caucasus in the first place because of a similar incident in St Petersburg earlier.
- Russian Roulette: Kinda. Vulich's gun is a one-shot pistol... with a chance of jamming.
- Scenery Porn: Lermontov's descriptions of Caucasus mountains and the nature.
- Screw Destiny / You Cannot Fight Fate: Both tropes are Discussed and explored in The Fatalist.
- The Watson: The unnamed traveling officer who falls into possession of Pechorin's diaries.