The Queen of Spades

The Queen of Spades Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Queen of Spades (Symbol)

The queen of spades upon which Hermann mistakenly places his final bet is a symbol for the sanity he risks in pursuit of material gains. Once he has lost everything, Hermann sees the queen of spades wink at him, just as the Countess did from her coffin. The moment seals his fate, and Hermann winds up in a mental hospital, obsessively repeating the sequence of cards that led him to risk and lose his mind.

Status (Motif)

Throughout the story, Pushkin details at the length the various characters' markers of social status. The Countess is obsessed with her status, continuing to dress elaborately and act abominably, unable to see the truth that her relevance and importance have dissipated over time. Similarly, Hermann's desire to have the status and power that wealth would bring cause him to obsess to the point of madness. For Liza, it is her lowly status that makes her susceptible to Hermann's calculated and misleading charm.

Shifting Point of View (Motif)

Though the majority of the story is told from the protagonist Hermann's point of view, Pushkin frequently changes to other characters' points of view. This creates a contrast between the types of stories that each of the characters believe they are participating in. While Hermann believes he is pursuing a story of mystic intrigue that will lead to great wealth, the same narrative from Liza's perspective is a story of burgeoning love. In other places, Pushkin briefly occupies the point of view of a minor character (such as the chamberlain at the funeral) to foreground the story's supernatural elements against a realistic background.