Circassian and Russian Culture in Hero of Our Time

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“Will Not Grow or Blossom” (12)

In Hero of Our Time, Lermontov utilizes Russian and Circassian cultures, to mirror the Romantic and Enlightenment philosophies at conflict within Pechorin. The divergence in Pechorin’s actions in accordance to the two societies allow for the hypocrisy of his conflicting ideals to be highlighted. The Circassian wedding in Bela, where couples face each other and say “anything that comes to mind”(12), invokes the Romantic ideas of natural freedom and independence. As the Ferdinand Brunetiere describes, Romanticism is the “stressing of individuality at the expense of a larger world”(Berlin, 15), and Lermontov certainly makes his character Pechorin act this way at times. Yet when Pechorin seeks to join the Romantic Circassian lifestyle, his inability to renounce the comfort and structure of enlightened society stops him from doing so. Additionally, Lermontov leads Pechorin to prove his inability to completely abandon the culture and philosophy of a privileged Russian aristocrat by putting Pechorin in the face of the elite selectiveness, strict structure and complicated social formalities in Princess Mary. There, believing himself to be above the “multilingual throng”(70) of high society and claiming to prefer the simplicity of the Circassian’s life style, Pechorin nevertheless perfectly follows the expectations of the Russian dance. As Isaiah Berlin explains, Romanticism is based on “The ability and readiness to dedicate yourself to your ideal” (Berlin, 8). Pechorin’s failure as a romantic is finalized through this idea, failing to commit himself to the Circassian culture, Pechorin participates in the apex of Russian society, the formal dance. In conjunction with Pechorin’s attitude towards both the Circassian and Provincial societies and apparent failure as a romantic, Lermontov’s use of Pechorin as a representative for the “heroes of [his] time”(4) provide insight into the ideas which Lermontov felt he must write...
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