Like a stone cast into a still pool I had shattered their calm--and like a stone, too, I had nearly gone to the bottom.
Pechorin utters this line at the end of his adventure in Taman. After he threatens to reveal the smuggling enterprise he witnesses, the young woman he compares to an undine tries to drown him. When she fails, she and Yanko sail away, leaving the blind boy and the old woman behind. Pechorin creates chaos in the lives of these four individuals. The quote above, however, goes beyond Pechorin's experience in Taman. It applies to all of the different settings in the novel. Pechorin creates chaos everywhere he ventures. He comes to danger, but he always manages to escape unscathed. It is the people around him who suffer.
These Circassians have got thieving in their blood. They'll steal anything, given the chance. Even things they don't want--they'll take them just the same. They just can't help it. And besides he'd long had a fancy for her.
Maxim Maximych employs the lines above to explain Kazbich's reasoning for trying to steal Bela. Maxim Maximych portrays Kazbich as a savage. This is ironic since Kazbich is essentially doing exactly what Pechorin had done. The Russian characters in the novel hold a lot of prejudices towards the Caucasus' natives despite their own actions being far from noble. Later in the novel, Pechorin echoes Maxim Maximych's words. Pechorin admits to himself that he does not know why he places so much effort in securing Princess Mary when he does not love her.
What a dull place the world would be if there were no fools.
Pechorin speaks the line above to Werner. He and Werner see the world through similar lenses, and they both have an in-depth understanding of human nature. Pechorin tells Werner that their strong similarities make them dull in each other's company. Because of their strong similarities and his fondness for Werner, Pechorin does not play his games with Werner. He manipulates less astute individuals such as Grushnitsky and Princess Mary. Pechorin corrupts the people around him in many ways. He either mentally and physically destroys them or recruits them as agents in his crimes. Grushnitsky and Princess Mary experience the former while Werner encounters the latter.
I've an insatiable craving inside me that consumes everything and makes me regard the sufferings and joys of others only in their relationship to me, as food to sustain my spiritual powers.
Pechorin's description of himself promotes the parasitic theme that exists in the novel. Pechorin consumes the innocence and the strengths of the people around him. He kidnaps Bela and manipulates her into entering an illegitimate union. She grows weak and pale in this union. His treatment of Princess Mary is no better. His actions tarnish Princess Mary's reputation and leave her physically and mentally devastated. Even Vera, the woman who stands above all others in his mind, suffers at his hands. Although he is truthful when he tells her that he has no real feelings for Princess Mary, Vera is still tormented by the attention that he gives the Princess. Vera does not trust Pechorin. It is significant that the one woman in the novel who truly knows him does not trust him. Furthermore, Vera's relationship with Pechorin leads her to ruin. Her husband learns of the affair.
I'm delighted. I love enemies, though not in the Christian way. They amuse me, stir my blood. Being always on the alert, catching their every glance, the hidden meaning of every word, guessing their next step, confounding their plans, pretending to be taken in and then with one fell blow wrecking the whole elaborate fabric of their cunning schemes-- that's what I call living!
Pechorin lives for drama and competition. When he does not find them, he creates them. The section titled "Princess Mary," in which the above quote is found, begins very peacefully. The section opens with a description of the spa town, Pyatigorsk. Pechorin does not allow the setting to dictate his actions. He quickly disturbs the serenity of the town.
Reading over these notes, I felt convinced of the sincerity of the man who so ruthlessly exposed his own failings and vices. The story of a man's soul, even the pettiest, can be more interesting and instructive than the story of a whole nation, especially if it is based on the self-observation of a mature mind and is written with no vain desire to arouse sympathy or surprise.
Pechorin may deceive others, but he does not deceive himself. He is very frank in his diary. He exposes all of his vices. The novel's first narrator notices this fact and mentions it in the Foreword that precedes the novel's last three stories. Pechorin is a man of many contradictions. He is both deceitful and honest, and his truths are just as detrimental as his lies.
It's always puzzled me that I've never been a slave to the women I've loved. In fact, I've always mastered them, heart and soul, without even trying.
Power is important to Pechorin. Gender roles influence Pechorin's views on power. Pechorin will not let himself be conquered, especially by a woman. He treats women as possessions. He manipulates them until they acquiesce to being his property. He manipulates Grushnitsky as easily as he does Princess Mary because he views Grushnitsky as an effeminate character. Pechorin implies Grushnitsky's feminine traits through various descriptions. He describes Grushnitsky's penchant for vanity and exaggerations.
However passionately I might love a woman, the first hint that she expects me to marry her banishes my love for good. My heart turns to stone, its warmth gone for ever. I'll make any sacrifice except this one.
Pechorin has a restless soul. He does not wish to be domesticated. He inspires as much awe and terror as the terrains he encounters in his adventures.
Nothing counts for me. I grow used to sorrow as easily as I do to pleasure, and my life gets emptier everyday.
At age 25, Pechorin has had many adventures and has outwitted many individuals, yet his life feels empty. A sense of loss follows him throughout the novel. He feels the loss of his youth and innocence. He loses Vera. Loss not only follows him, he creates it as well. He discards Maxim Maximych and Werner. He makes himself friendless.
I've been going over my past, and I can't help wondering why I've lived, for what purpose I was born. There must have been some purpose, I must have had some high object in life, for I feel unbounded strength within me.
Pechorin's lack of purpose explains his penchant for creating chaos. Without a sense of purpose, he fills his life with temporary goals. He gives himself the goals of obtaining Bela, seducing Princess Mary, and crushing Grushnitsky.
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.