Many critics during Mikhail Lermontov's time felt that he created Pechorin, the main character of A Hero of Our Time, in his own likeness. Besides similarities in age and occupation, characters in Pechorin's life resemble individuals in Lermontov's life. Critics believed Werner to be based off of Doctor Maier, who lived in Pyatigorsk, and Vera on Varvara Lopukhina, whose affair with Lermontov ended when she married another man.
Lermontov's contemporaries also referenced his poems to support their argument. They connected Pechorin's thoughts to many of the sentiments Lermentov expressed in his poems. Pechorin echoes Lermontov's romantic descriptions of the Caucasus and his criticisms of Russian society. Lermontov disliked the comparisons.
In a second edition of his novel, he included a preface to respond to these and other claims. In the preface, he asserts that Pechorin represents a corrupt generation rather than an individual. He also addresses critics who believed the novel to be immoral. He tells them that the novel merely presents the vices he has witnessed in his society and that one should not be offended by truths.