“The Fatalist” is a name of the story from Lermontov’s novel “A Hero of Our Time”. This story takes place at the very end of the novel, and also can be read separately. The other parts of the novel also maintain their independence, being connected only through the main character Pechorin.
The novel is divided into two different parts, in first one consisted of novels “Bela”, “Maksim Maksimich”, “Pechorin’s Diary”, and the second part is assembled by the stories under the name “The Dutchess Mary”, and “The Fatalist”. In the first part of the book, Pechorin is described by the other characters while in the second part he takes over the role of a narrator.
Pechorin is a typical Byronistic type of anti-hero, opposite to the other characters of the romanticistic era. He is smart, educated and wealthy young man, but selfish and reckless toward other people’s lives and feelings. He is also incapable of having friends because he finds the concept of friendship itself as a sort of enslaving relationship, becoming unacceptable for him under those terms.
He thinks he experienced all things from life, although being only twenty-five, so he lives for the moments, not knowing or caring about the consequences. Pechorin finds a possible death the worst outcome. Lermontov describes him as a victim of circumstances, as he develops completely different opinions about the world, not believing in love, friendship or kindness.
The Pechorin’ reality is in contrast with the title of this novel as he is quite the opposite of the hero if we keep his actions and characteristics in mind. But if we analyze only the last story from this novel we can see the heroism of the Pechorin’s character, justifying the title of this novel.
In this story, Pechorin spends a couple of weeks in some Cossack village, gambling and playing cards. One evening he starts a conversation about destiny if it is predestined or every individual is responsible for the course of his life.Pechorin places a bet against a Sargent Vulich, convincing him he will die tonight.
Vulich attempts suicide but his gun failed to shoot, although it worked at the second attempt when Vulich tried to shoot the hat standing by the window. That very same evening Vulich was killed by a Cossack, and his last words were that Pechorin was right.
The title in a way describes a theme of this story, as fatalist is a person that believes in faith and coincidences. The change of Pechorin is becoming more visible as the story flows, as he shifts from his conviction in the nonexistence of destiny, becoming a skeptic, rethinking his beliefs once he made the bet.
He admits him believing in destiny for a split of a second, although he spent his entire life mocking the people who share that opinion. After the incident with the drunk Cossack which resulted in the Vulich’s death, Pechorin thinks about the possibility of avoiding that accidental situation and comes to the conclusion, it is impossible not to become a fatalist. He doubts everything and lives his life by not knowing what could happen, aware that the death is the worst outcome, yet no one could escape her.
Main theme: The predestination of a human life
Genre: Short story
Time: during the periods of two weeks
Place: Cossack village
The main character, Pechorin, describes the event he witnesses while spending two weeks in a Cossack’s village among the army, playing cards with them every evening. As one evening they got bored with playing the same games, a conversation about destiny took place. Inspired by the ancient Muslim belief where every man’s life is predestined by a higher force, they started the conversation that soon became a large discussion.
Every man present had his own theory, but the loudest were the ones defending human’s ability of thinking and dividing right from wrong and also the ability for taking responsibility for one’s actions. Those were trying to convince the rest of the company that an argument about the existence of destiny is invalid.
One officer from Serbia, Lieutenant Vulich, stood up and explained the others that there is no point in arguing about the destiny when the only way of testing if it exists is to see for themselves are they capable of controlling their own lives.
Except being a passionate gambler and card player, this man avoided alcohol and the company of others, remaining a bit distant. Everyone avoided his proposal by calling him weird, but Pechorin accepted, placing also twenty gold ducats for his bet and claiming there is no such thing as destiny.
Vulich accepts his bet and asks major to be their judge , offering his fifteen ducats and promising to bring five more. He left in another room where he loaded his gun, shocking the others present who referred to him as a mad man.
Everyone gathered around the table, where Pechorin told Vulich he will day this very evening, as he can see the stamp of death all over his face, referring to the old belief who says a mark of a soon death is visible on one’s face. Vulich replied him in an indeterminate manner, causing further bets of people surrounding them, who were trying to establish whether the gun is loaded or not.
As the people become lacking in interest, Vulich asked Pechorin to throw a card in the air while he pointed a gun at his head. He fired a gun as the card was almost touching the table, but the gun misfired, causing the viewers to suspect if it is loaded. Vulich decided to shoot at the hat hanging at the window and gun fired, this time, filling the room with smoke and piercing a hat. After a couple of minutes spent in silence, Vulich started collecting the won ducats.
Another discussion took place,this time about the reasons of gun misfired. Some of the people believed that gun hasn’t been properly cleaned, yet others presumed the gunpowder was damp and refilled again. Pechorin knew that wasn’t the case, as he was present while Vulich was loading the gun.
Pechorin told Vulich how lucky he is, but Vulich replied him that happened fir the first time and felt better than any card game so far, but more dangerous as well. He asked Pechorin if he is now convinced in destiny, and Pechorin answered him in an affirmative way, trying to discuss again the premonition he had, about Vulich dying this evening.
Vulich was offended by his comment, finding it inappropriate and he left, while Pechorin was thinking about his odd reaction. The other people become leaving as well, calling Pechorin egoist as he gambles with a man ready to commit a suicide if necessary.
Pechorin got confused with these events so he kept some time rethinking them, even convincing himself in a possibility of destiny being real. He was watching the night sky and thinking about the ancient human belief of seeing one’s destiny in stars. As he considered himself of being a realist, he decided not to think about the abstract things, as he is not more than a tired man who remains only with his sad memories and apathy.
He considered he already experienced everything that matters during his life so far, so he was bored and decisive on not relying on any of the beliefs.He tripped over a corpse of a pig sliced with a sword. Soon, a couple of Cossack appeared in a search for the third one, who was drunk and accompanied with a pig. Pechorin showed them the dead pig so they went further searching their colleague.
Pechorin returned to the apartment which he rented from a Sargent who had attractive daughter Nastja. Nastja welcomed him, but Pechorin wasn’t in a mood for company. He hardly fell asleep, being awakened by the knocks at his window. The three officers noticed him about Vulich being killed by a drunk Cossack who murdered a pig earlier as well.
They commented his bad luck and strange destiny he ran away from only about half an hour earlier. They went together by the end of the village where already a lot of people gathered around the house where murder locked himself. Pechorin noticed one old lady, the mother of a murder. No one had the courage to attack first so Pechorin peeked inside the house through the window, seeing the murderer laying on the ground by the bloody sword, holding a gun.
He was pale and occasionally grabbing his head as he was remembering what he did. Pechorin proposed to the army captain to enter the cabin by force as the murderer appeared to be in a state of shock before he gets to his senses and commits a suicide as well. The captain of Cossack orders the murder to surrender, advising him to receive his punishment as a true Christian, but the murder declined so they had to shoot him.
Pechorin decided to try playing with destiny himself, asking the Cossack to distract the murderer as he tries to step inside the house through the back window and possibly make him surrender alive. The murderer heard him and tried to shoot, hitting only Pechorin’s epaulet (a uniform shoulder strap).
As the room was filled with smoke, Pechorin grabbed the confused murderer and with the help of other Cossack approaching tied him and delivered to the guard. The people soon left the scene and the army officers were greeting Pechorin’s accomplishment.
At the end Pechorin concluded it is impossible not to become a fatalist as the human being can be tricked so easily by the delusions of feelings and senses. He also becomes suspicious about everything and starts living his life in a more courageous way, unaware what could happen to him and knowing he can not avoid the death, as the final and the worst outcome.
Later, when he met Maksim Maksimich he told him all about his experience with Vulich and asked his opinion about predestination in life. Maksimich didn’t understand him at first but after Pechorin explained him, Maksimich agreed with him, feeling sorry for the poor Vulich, describing his murder to be the manifestation of destiny.
Characters: Pechorin, Lieutenant Vulich, the drunk Cossack Jefimich, Nastja, Maksim Maksimich
The Lieutenant of the Russian army, originally from Serbia. A Tall man with a darker complexion, black eyes, and hair with big yet regular shaped nose. He was a fan of discussion, although he avoided alcohol and confiding to others. His biggest passion was playing the card games, although he didn’t have any luck in gambling.
He interrupts the discussion about predestination in life, asking the present people to prove difference at the example of their own lives. His obsession with gambling got him into betting against Pechorin, who doesn’t believe in fate.
After betting in twenty gold ducats he shoots the gun twice, misfired the first shot as he was aiming in the direction of his head, yet shooting the second one, proving the gun is in a valid condition. Later that same evening he got killed by a drunk Cossack because he started talking with him. His last words were that Pechorin was right considering his statement that Vulich will die.
A young Russian officer, at the age of twenty-five. Well educated and rich, passionate man living for the moment. Despite his young age, he thinks that he has enough of life’s experience, carrying on living out of curiosity and habit. He is selfish and relentless for the feelings of others, playing them around, especially women. He thinks of his life as boring and tries on changing him by bringing the chaos in lives of other people just for his own fun.
He influences the other in a fatal way, as he is described in this part of the novel. As he doesn’t believe in destiny, he keeps mocking the ones who do, remaining firm in his attitudes although at the one moment he becomes suspicious after Vulich showed him the other side. After the bet and gun-related events, he was thinking about the whole concept of destiny on his way home.
At the end, he decides not to get involved in the abstract thinking, as he stopped being a dreamer after experiencing a lot through his life. He became a tired, passive and bored man who compares all of his memories of sorrow. After predicting Vulich’s death he concludes that he will remain on living his life not knowing what follows, as he sure can’t avoid the certain death.
Although Vulich was described as a gambler willing on proofing the presence of the destiny, a same type of characteristics we can see in Pechorin as well, as he seeks danger in his adventures, not caring about the consequences. Proof of that behavior can be found at the very end of the story, where Pechorin risks his life while trying to arrest the murderer, not thinking about the consequences at any given moment.
Mikhail Lermontov Biography
Mikhail Lermontov was a famous writer and novelist with a number of works behind what made him unavoidable in many cultures. Mikhail Yuryevich was born October 15, 1814, in Moscow.
His childhood was anything but modest as he grew up in aristocratic family in Russia. Thanks to the different roots from his parents he had a chance to grew up in trilingual surroundings.
Mikhail ancestor was one of the Scottish Knights. The story of George Lermont, Mikhail ancestor started in Russia 1613. For Mikhail Lermontov worked Jean, Frenchman who was hired from Mikhail’s grandmother. It wasn’t enough to have a servant from France, for his upbringing was responsible nanny from Germany.
Unfortunately he lost his mother when he was just two years old, and that was a reason why his was taken away from his father. The main person in charge of his upbringing became his grandmother. Lermontov graduated in Moscow. There he studied English literature.
A lot has happened to at the age of fourteen when he created the famous work “The prisoner of the Caucasus”. That wasn’t the only work because at that age he wrote many poems. He was not only a cadet in St. Petersburg at Emperor’s School of Cavalry Guards, he was also a student the University of Moscow.
During his time as a cadet he became an Imperial Officer, and in that time his next big work “Borodino”was dedicated to the victory over famous general, Napoleon.
Lermontov was stunned by the duel and death of Alexander Pushkin and accused the autocratic Tsar Nicholas I and his “greedy throng around the Throne” in the “murder of the Genius”. Arrested and exiled to the war in the mountains of Caucasus, he distinguished himself in battles and returned to the capital of St. Petersburg as a celebrity. Because it was so disillusioned with the life of aristocracy and their vanity fair, Lermontov created famous work “Masquerade”.
Because of a duel with a diplomat from France, he was exiled in the Caucasus. In 1839, he finished his first and only novel “A Hero of Our Time” with a prophetic rendition of a duel which paralleled the end of his own life in July 1841. That duel was possibly the work of the Tsar’s conspiracy against yet another rebellious genius.
The knowledge of many foreign languages resulted with great work such as, “The Dream”, “Prophet” and “The Cliff”.
His sacrilegious “Demon”, about an angel who falls in love with a mortal woman, inspired Anton Rubinstein on writing a lush opera. Boris Pasternak was influenced by Lermontov’s mellifluent lines, and Vladimir Nabokov imitated the structural patterns of “The Hero of Our Time”.
Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov died July 27 1841, at the age 26.