A Hero of Our Time

Conflict in Russian Literature College

The concept of the “superfluous man” began appearing in Russian literature in the 19th century. It refers to a man who often has superior intellect, leading him to feel misunderstood and victimized in a society that does not give him the opportunity to fulfill his capabilities. These men are superfluous because they are extra people in society, ones who cannot find their place and instead withdraw into themselves. Scholars speculate that authors’ wrote about the superfluous man to represent the struggle between Russia’s progressive thinkers and their oppressive government. While this may be true, the superfluous man has key characteristics that are meaningful to analyze in order to understand his character type. Lermontov’s A Hero of Our Time, Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilych, and Turgenev’s Fathers and Children are novels about superfluous men named Pechorin, Ivan, and Bazarov, respectively, who all experience conflict in their love lives. The source of this conflict, whether it’s their lack of fulfillment, lust for power, frustration with being misunderstood, or repressed passion, sheds light onto the inner turmoil that characterizes superfluous men.

Lack of fulfillment is characteristic of the superfluous man; he has many...

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