Pechorin is the main character in “Hero of Our Time”, however in the first two parts the reader learns about him only through other characters’ perceptions of him. The reader’s view of Pechorin, therefore, is less reliable, and this is reinforced by the inconsistencies in the viewpoint shown. Since Lermontov has chosen a more unique way of telling the story in that the central character is revealed very gradually as the story progresses, this changes the way in which we view Pechorin, as there is still much the reader doesn’t know about him and it adds an air of mystery to the character.
One way in which we form views about Pechorin is through the travelling narrator’s descriptions of him. Through the physical description of Pechorin we also learn more about him in a non-physical sense, for example his different traits and characteristics. For instance when he describes Pechorin’s eyes he describes them by saying that “they never laughed when he was laughing”. This reflects the way that we have started to see Pechorin, in the same way that the eyes never truly show what it is that he is feeling, the things that he says and does seem to be hiding the truth from the people he is speaking to, or anyone around him.
He never seems completely worthy of the reader’s trust, and another example of this is when the travelling narrator says that his “gait was loose and indolent, but I observed that he did not swing his arms – a sure sign of a certain reticence of nature”, this description seems to contain a contradiction, however perhaps this is just reflective of the way that Pechorin appears lazy or “indolent” but he is trying to hide it. The way that he tries to hide it shows his unreliability.
However, the contradictions in this passage, coupled with the fact that this isn’t the first time that the narrator has come across Pechorin, and has heard much about him in conversation, raises a question of reliability and asks how much we can trust his description. Since he has heard so much about Pechorin from Maksim Maksimych, the description holds more importance to the writer than perhaps it should. He expects Pechorin to live up to the character created by Maksim, and he ccepts this fact near the end of the description, saying that it is possible “all these observations came to my mind only because I knew some details of his life”. A second way in which we start to discover the character of Pechorin is through the story told by Maksim Maksimych. Much of our initial views of Pechorin are formed through what Maksim tells us about him, and he is the one that first introduces the common idea of Pechorin acting. When talking about his plan to win Bela he describes how Pechorin really gets caught up in his performance, observing that “he was trembling” and says that “that was the kind of man he was”.
However there is again the problem of how much we can rely on what Maksim says. Although he seems to be a generally dependable character, there are a couple of reasons why the reader may not fully believe in Maksim’s portrayal of Pechorin. One of these is that when we meet him in the next chapter they seem not nearly as close as Maksim depicted them to be, so if he has exaggerated their friendship it is possible that this isn’t the only aspect of Pechorin that he has overstated or changed.
Supporting this problem is the fact that all of his representation of Pechorin is through the story, and as the story is being told to a fellow traveller, Maksim may feel he has license to exaggerate. The travelling narrator was certainly looking for a story, and so it is possible Maksim felt compelled to give him a good one, and may have changed parts of the story in order to create this. The style of the novel is important in shaping our ideas about Pechorin. Since a couple of different narrators are used to tell the story the style varies along with the narrator.
The main narrator, the travelling narrator, seems to be the more reliable of the two, however it is possible that this is only due to the fact that we spend more time reading things that this narrator has written, and so the familiarity can lead to a false sense of reliability that perhaps shouldn’t be present. As well as this the author never seems definitively to decide on one style mixing elements of both romanticism and realism. In conclusion what the reader learns about Pechorin makes him seem as if he acks any real emotion, and he seems always to be acting and deceiving the other characters in the story. However from just these first two chapters it is hard to know how much we can trust the descriptions given to us as there always seems to be an issue of reliability with the two different narrators, and although it would seem like when Pechorin talks that would give us a reliable suggestion of what he is like, the fact that his character comes across as forged almost negates this possibility.