Narrative Structure

The sequence of the tales in A Hero of Our Time is, as was mentioned earlier, very important in terms of how the reader learns about Pechorin. Also important is the fact that at no point does Lermontov use an omniscient narrator. In "Bela" and "Maxim Maximych" one only learns as much of Pechorin as Maxim or the author / narrator character is able to tell from their own knowledge of Pechorin, and one can certainly not be sure of the objectivity or reliability of the reports of either. One might tend to accept the narration of Maxim Maximych more readily than that of the anonymous author / narrator with his tendency for high-flown language and lyricising, but then one has to remember that Maxim Maximych's words are reported through this very same person, and that one cannot know if they have been reliably repeated.

Lermontov also provides the reader with almost no prehistory for his hero, and we are left to guess at why he is in the Caucasus. Further, it is very difficult to form an entirely clear picture of Pechorin's character, as nobody can ever be sure to have blended the different viewpoints of his character to form a correct composite picture. One thing that is made clear by Lermontov, however, both by his title and by these remarks he made in his preface to the second edition of the novel, is that: "A Hero of Our Time, gentlemen, is indeed a portrait, but not of a single individual; it is a portrait composed of all the vices of our generation in the fullness of their development." What many of Lermontov's readers at the time found difficult to swallow was that this symbol for a whole generation of men should display such morally unattractive characteristics without the comment and censure usually afforded by the use of an omniscient third- person narrator.

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