50 pages 1 hour read

Mikhail Lermontov

A Hero Of Our Time

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1838

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Symbols & Motifs

Caucasus Mountains

The motif of the Caucasus mountains pervades the novel, providing both the landscape and the emotional atmosphere for Pechorin’s journey. Due to the region’s border status, Russian writers of Lermontov’s day considered the Caucasus an exotic location and an appropriate setting for a Romantic novel that highlighted the passions and tragedies of its characters. The beautiful, treacherous terrain and the predominantly Asiatic Muslim population positioned the Caucasus mountains as the “other” in the Russian literary imagination and prompted the Orientalist depictions of the region and peoples found in A Hero of Our Time.

As the region came under Russian control in a piecemeal fashion in the early 19th century, the Caucasus remained a militarily-disputed territory and a constant outpost for the Russian army. Lermontov portrays the flying bullets, rough conditions, foreign cultures, and extreme, unpredictable weather as forces that support the themes of danger, fate, and chance with which Pechorin and the other characters grapple in the novel.


Pistols symbolize fate, chance, and nihilism in the novel. In Book 5, Vulich engages in what famously became the first game of “Russian roulette” when he pours gunpowder into the pan of a pistol that may or may not be loaded and pulls the trigger with the muzzle against his forehead.