50 pages 1 hour read

Mikhail Lermontov

A Hero Of Our Time

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1838

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Book 5Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Book 5 Summary: “The Third Extract from Pechorin’s Diary: The Fatalist”

Pechorin’s battalion is stationed in a Cossack village, and each night, the officers take turns hosting a card game. One night, the game is not very interesting, and they begin talking about fate—in particular, whether the end of a person’s life is predestined. Pechorin bets that destiny does not exist. A Serbian officer, Vulich, counters him and proposes an experiment.

Vulich takes a pistol from the major’s bedroom, cocks it, and fills it with gun powder. The other officers protest because the situation is dangerous; no one knows whether the pistol is loaded. Vulich asks everyone to make a wager of 20 ducats and they comply. Pechorin notes he “could read the stamp of death upon [Vulich’s] pale countenance” (127). Pechorin tells Vulich that Vulich will die that day, but Vulich is ambivalent. He tells Pechorin to throw a card into the air, and when the card hits the table, Vulich fires the pistol against his temple.

The gun misfires and everyone is relieved, believing the gun was not loaded. However, Vulich shoots at a cap hanging on the wall, and brings it down, embedding the bullet in the wall. Vulich collects his winnings (he is a dedicated gambler), and everyone speculates over why the gun did not fire the first time.