There are many ways to tell a story and Mikhail Lermontov was able to employ the use of narrative voice and its many uses in A Hero of Our Time. With his uses he is able to paint a picture of the books anti-hero, Pechorin and enlighten the reader on the character of a disturbed man. This man is scarred in some ways from life and does not know how to deal with the scars life has dealt him. This inability is first shown in the narration of Maxim Maximych. Maxim recounts his story of meeting Pechorin to the traveler, who is the main narrator at the beginning of the book. Maxim has many tales of Pechorin but the main one being about Bela.
Bela was acquired from Bela brother, Azam at for a beautiful horse that didnt even belong to Pechorin but to another man in Pechorins post. This trade says a couple things about human behaviour. On Aza mats side there is the fact that his greed has control over his actions which leads to him giving over family for an animal that in his eyes is a more valuable friend than his sister. Pechorin sees this and so from the beginning of the novel we can tell Pechorin is a master manipulator who preys on the weak of the world. Pechorin from the beginning is persistent in having Bela love him. She at first is resistant but slowly grows more so.
But then a terrible thing comes to pass. Bela begins to die. Pechorin realizes early on that he can not do anything to save her but he tries to anyhow. This is in part because he wants to have a clear conscience about her death since in many ways he changed her life forever. Maxim makes a comment on this persistence by saying: He was like that. Hed get something into his head and not be content till he got it.
1 This persistence is a character trait that is in the end part of his own downfall. When Bela die Maxim says: His face showed me nothing particular, and that annoyed me. If Id been in his place Id have died of grief... I wanted to console him, more for decency's sake, you understand, than anything else. But when I spoke he lifted up his head and laughed. The laugh sent cold shivers down my spine.
2 There are many reasons why Pechorins laugh might have sent shivers down Maxims spine. Maxim would probably think that Pechorin is a cold man with no real emotions. But I think that the man who could never love has lost someone that he loves and he might not know how to handle the emotions that are welling up inside of him. At the same time he is realizing that he can not do everything and that deep down inside he is only human and that he can not do everything. And for someone like Pechorin, a master politician it is a hard thing to swallow. Perhaps Maxim realizes this but from what Maxim tells us he shows Pechorin as a cold human being in many respects but unknowingly he has shown us a man with a soul.
Of course this soul could be debated with the story of Princess Mary that is told by Pechorin in his journal. Princess Mary is a socialite and very popular of course. Along comes Pechorin to steal her thunder. He tells glorious stories and insults her subtly by stealing away her audience. She of course wants to know who this man who comes in so bravely to challenge her popularity is. Gradually they become friends but he still insults her sometimes by ignoring her when she comes by.
This only makes her want him more. And this is what Pechorin wants because he watches Grushnitsky, a potential suitor to the princess, fail at playing the game of romance. Therefore he wants to show Grushnitsky off as a phony who is really a bumbling idiot and not a suave man. When Grushnitsky is shown off by Pechorin he is shown as a fool. So to protect his honour he challenges Pechorin to a duel. Pechorin finds out that the guns in the duel will be rigged to humiliate him.
Pechorin comes up with a plan of his own to defeat Grushnitsky. What he ends up doing is killing Grushnitsky. This shocks all of the onlookers. But in reality eliminate the bad player of the group. When Pechorin returns to the town he finds out what he has assumed.
Princess Mary loves him. He goes to her and tells her that he does not return the love. Of course we do not ever know if Pechorin really loved her but at the end of the book you find him to be a dark, mean person without a soul. As Pechorin shares some of his thoughts throughout the novel as well as the other characters opinion of him, we are given a picture that does not make sense. We are never given a full sense of who Pechorin really is.
But perhaps that is what Mikhail Lermontov is trying to say, that we can never really know a person, know matter how well we know him or her.