Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pechorin and Friendship

With Part 2 of Mikhail Lermontov's 'A Hero of Our Time,' we see the intriguing character of Pechorin in what ends up becoming a competition of sorts over the Mary between himself and Grushnitsky.  However, a more minute detail of the chapter really seems to reveal an important side of Pechorin's unusual personality.  At the beginning of May 13th, he is talking to Doctor Werner, and as he describes it, they become acquaintances.  While that would be fine and dandy in a normal social situation, it is Pechorin's further description that proves interesting, as he claims to be "incapable of friendship" (Lermontov, 79).  This could be perceived as a character flaw in some ways, as maybe it shows that Pechorin is socially unable to extend himself or adapt to certain situations, resulting in an unwillingness to even face them in the first place by never becoming friends with people.  However, I do not feel that this introverted view of him is necessarily correct.  He is a cold character, but he does have social desires, and is more than willing to pursue them.  Of course, within this chapter, that social desire is women, and he certainly does go after them.

Instead, though, this lack of friendship is about a principle--that "of two friends, one is always a slave to the other," and that "[he] will never be a slave" (79).  This is a very interesting philosophy that really seems to get at the heart of Pechorin's peculiarities as a character, and maybe furthermore, is emblematic of what makes him such a unique and fascinating protagonist to read about.  This inherent cynicism is just not very common in protagonist roles in most forms of literature, and especially in contrast with Pytor of whom we read about in Pushkin's 'The Captain's Daughter.'  Pechorin's seemingly selfish, cynical attitude in life is on fully display as he pursues Mary in particular, as his attempts at getting her attention seem to be more in line with the idea that he wants her as an object, rather than as a person, especially since wanting her as a person would denote a friendship, which he is, of course, opposed to on principle.  Thus, we can see how this entire chapter is, even without going into much detail about his dynamic with Grushnitsky, incredibly revelatory of Pechorin's character and way of thinking.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Welcome to the Grinnell College Russian Literature blog!

Welcome to the Grinnell College Russian Literature blog!

Students enrolled in Russian Literature courses at Grinnell College will use this space to discuss their reading.  Anyone is welcome to participate in the comments.

This semester  (Spring 2012), blog authors are students from the Russian novel course.  Here is what they are reading:

The Nineteenth Century

Alexander Pushkin, The Captain’s Daughter
Mikhail Lermontov, Hero of Our Time
Ivan Turgenev, Fathers and Sons (Norton Critical Edition)
Feodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment (Pevear and Volokhonsky translation)
Lev Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (Pevear and Volokhonsky translation)

The Twentieth Century

Evgeny Zamyatin, We
Yuri Olesha, Envy
Mikhail Bulgakov, Master and Margarita
Vladimir Nabokov, Mary
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Lyudmila Petrushevskaya, The Time: Night
Viktor Pelevin, Omon Ra