1830s, the Caucasus. Pechorin is a young Russian officer stationed in the Caucasus, where the Russian army is trying to squelch rebellion from the local tribes.
Narrator and Point of View
The novel has three narrators. The first narrator is given no name. Maxim Maximych and Pechorin are the second and third narrators, respectively. The novel is told entirely from the first-person point of view.
Tone and Mood
The five stories have the same tones and moods. There is a mixture of cynicism, disenchantment, reflection, passion, and drama in each story.
Protagonist and Antagonist
Pechorin is both the protagonist and the villain. He encounters a few adversaries -- Kazbich, an unnamed young woman, the blind boy, Grushnitsky, and Vera's husband -- who serve as antagonists.
Since the novel is essentially a collection of five short stories, there are many conflicts. In the first story, "Bela," Pechorin's actions incite Kazbich's wrath. In the second story, "Maxim Maximych," Maxim Maximych tries to reconnect with Pechorin. In the third story, "Taman," Pechorin encounters mysterious figures that threaten his life and possessions. In the fourth story, "Princess Mary," Pechorin tries to reconnect with a former love, and he faces a plot against his life. In the fifth story, "The Fatalist," Vulich gambles with his life to prove that predestination exists.
Since there are five short stories, there are five climaxes. In "Bela," the climax takes place when Pechorin and Maxim Maximych rescue Bela from Kazbich's clutches. In "Maxim Maximych," the climax takes place when Maxim and Pechorin see each other face to face. In "Taman," the climax occurs when the young woman nearly drowns Pechorin. In "Princess Mary," the climax occurs when Grushnitsky and Pechorin face each other in a duel. In "The Fatalist," the climax occurs when Vulich holds the gun to his head.
A simile comparing Karagyoz's eyes to Bela's foreshadows their linked fates.
The novel makes many allusions to Lord Byron. Princess Mary has read Byron's work, and Pechorin notes that Werner has uneven legs like Byron. The novel also references the following figures: Peter the Great, Aleksandr Pushkin, General Alexei Petrovich Yermolov, Walter Scott, Julius Caesar, Tasso, Nero, Apfelbaum, and Cicero.
Lermontov treats the settings in the novel as characters. He describes them in great detail, and he gives them complexity. The vivid descriptions he gives Taman, Pyatigorsk, and Kislovodsk incite both awe and terror.
There are many parallelisms in the novel. Kazbich and Pechorin share many characteristics. They are vengeful, mysterious, and cruel. Kazbich and Pechorin both escape death numerous times. Werner and Maxim Maximych are both admired and eventually discarded by Pechorin. They also both assist him in his schemes. Bela and Princess Mary are both seduced and weakened by Pechorin. They also have similar titles. As a chief's daughter, Bela is a Princess in her own rights. Last but not least, Vulich and Pechorin both test fate. Vulich holds a gun to his head and shoots while Pechorin actively seeks danger through his numerous adventures.
Metonymy and Synecdoche
In the short story, "Taman," Perchorin personifies the waves, the moon, and the moonlight. He hears the waves "murmuring," observes the moon looking "calmly down on the turbulent element it ruled" (57), and sees the moonlight "play[ing] on the mud floor of the hut" (59). Pechorin also personifies Yanko's boat. He describes it as an indestructible duck. In the short story, "Princess Mary," Pechorin personifies his surroundings yet again. He personifies branches of cherry blossom and the wind. The branches "peep" at his window while the wind "sends occasional showers of white petals on to [his] desk" (70). He also personifies a torrent and streams. The torrent "foams" and "roar" while the streams "merrily race one another" (116).
A Hero of Our Time Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for A Hero of Our Time is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.