Pechorin is a corrupt individual. He exploits the weaknesses of the individuals around him and causes them to further debase themselves. In order to obtain Bela, he indulges Azamat's vice of stealing property. Azamat, a petty thief at the beginning of the novel, ends up a fugitive who has his father and sister's blood on his hands. Pechorin also corrupts Princess Mary. When Princess Mary is first introduced, she is vain, but pure. He exploits her innocence and vanity. By the time he is done with her, her reputation is not as pure as it had been.
Pechorin has a strange sense of love. He showers the women he loves with affection until they reciprocate his feelings. Once they show him absolute devotion, he becomes bored and distant. Vera still captivates him simply because he never gets a chance to fully possess her. Her husband takes her away before any union between her and Pechorin can be made. She is forever unattainable and that makes her his most enduring love. In Pechorin's mind, love is synonymous with challenge. Pechorin is not the only character that has this notion of love. Princess Mary falls in love with Pechorin because he is a challenge. She has a throng of admirers, but she seeks the one individual who refuses to lavish her with attention and praises.
Pechorin is the master manipulator in the novel. He manipulates Azamat, Bela, Grushnitsky, Princess Mary, and many other characters. He schemes in order to rid himself of boredom. He takes on the role of a playwright, manipulating characters to create a sensational chain of events. After he kills Grushnitsky, he states, "Finita la commedia" (141). Other characters get into the manipulation action as well. The young woman in Taman lures Pechorin to the sea and nearly drowns him. Grushnitsky and the dragoon captain plan to entice Pechorin into a duel.
Pechorin distances himself very quickly from people, and he calls people acquaintances rather than friends because he believes himself incapable of friendships. He believes that one person is always the slave of the other in a friendship, and he does not wish to command or to serve. When he encounters Maxim Maximych again, he is cold to the old officer. Pechorin's behavior breaks Maxim Maximych's heart. Pechorin does not treat Werner any better. Pechorin shows Werner no signs of affection when they part. When it comes to Grushnitsky, Pechorin is even crueler. Pechorin manipulates Grushnitsky and then takes the young man's life.
Although Pechorin is twenty-five years old, he does not feel young. He feels as if his youth and innocence have long disappeared. He feels more experienced than Grushnitsky who is only four years younger. Pechorin exploits Grushnitsky's innocence. He takes advantage of Grushnitsky's trust and youthful endeavors. Pechorin also exploits Princess Mary's innocence. He employs his strong knowledge of human nature and his vast experience with females to manipulate her. Pechorin is in many ways a vampire. He sucks the life out of the novel's youths. He takes Grushnitsky's life and weakens Princess Mary both physically and emotionally.
Pechorin holds the power in this novel, but he encounters some strong adversaries. The novel describes Kazbich as a fearsome and smart tribesman, yet Pechorin easily outwits him. The young woman in Taman comes very close to killing Pechorin, but he regains power over her and throws her into the sea. Princess Mary also tries to outmaneuver Pechorin and fails. He sees through her actions.
Competition is an integral part of this novel. Both Kazbich and Pechorin admire Bela, but Pechorin does not play fair. Pechorin kidnaps Bela, giving Kazbich no chance to win her heart. Kazbich gets another chance to claim Bela, but fails. Bela's screams alert the officers as Kazbich attempts to steal her. Kazbich, in his efforts to salvage a win against Pechorin, stabs Bela before escaping. Grushnitsky and Pechorin also compete. Pechorin is the victor. He wins Princess Mary's heart and creates turmoil in Grushnitsky's life. Grushnitsky pursues revenge, but he harms himself instead of Pechorin. Grushnitsky dies in the duel he arranges to kill Pechorin.
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.