Mikhail Lermontov's protagonist, Grigory Pechorin, belongs to that group of literary characters known individually as the 'superfluous man.'; Generally an intelligent, educated individual, the superfluous man would appear to be one who has been either unjustly treated or outcast by society in general. The superfluous man attempts to find a place for himself in the world, but perhaps due to the combination of his talents, upbringing, personality and intelligence, continually finds himself on the outs with his peers.
If the above definition is accepted as valid, then Pechorin might appear to be the consummate superfluous man. From the outpouring of his tale of woe to Princess Mary, we may come to the conclusion that Pechorin has no concept of cause and effect, at least not as it applies to himself as the cause. Moreover, it becomes fairly apparent that he is of the belief that he is a victim of the world, which is more interesting, as one considers the culture of victimization that has become popular in recent years. Who has not heard the excuse, 'I did it because my (parents/state representative/dog) (harassed/bit/abused) me when I was a child.'; In my opinion, the growing interest in pop psychology and the related fields of social psychology and child psychology have greatly contributed to the decay of moral rectitude and the concept of taking responsibility for one's own actions.
The translator attributes Pechorin's capriciousness to the lack of employment for his gifts. I do not agree with that assessment, as it has been my experience that only those who have made up their minds to lack direction will be unable to find an activity that occupies their mind and appeals to them. One possible pursuit would be some form of art. Skill matters little, if the activity is pleasing. Cultural appreciation, gastronomical excess, or sexual exercise would all be suitable endeavors. We see that Pechorin certainly takes pleasure in the company of women, though in his own words, 'I must confess I don't really like strong-willed women,'; (111), the female sex does not hold an unbounded appeal for him. But his relationship with Vera, and his reaction to Maxim Maximych's inquiry about Bela clearly show that he is capable of feeling some emotion for others, although he refuses to expressing it. This is entirely Pechorin's own shortcoming, for if he were willing to conduct a fairly rigorous self-analysis, balancing himself against general social behaviors and mores, he could work to make those changes within his character that would allow him to relate with others. It would not even require major personality shifts, but rather a loosing of certain inhibitions, along with a different application of self-monitoring.
Pechorin claims that he does not enjoy bringing misery to others, and that when he does, he feels just as miserable. I do not hold the belief that a person is...