What is a duel? This is a duel, during which opponents defend their honor or stand up for the honor of another person. Honor is the moral dignity of a person, valor, nobility of the soul and a clear conscience.
The Russian nobleman obeyed the law and had no right to participate in a duel: punishment awaited everyone, including seconds. At the same time, every nobleman obeyed the laws of honor, and the duel was regarded by the upper class as the only means of protecting human dignity.
Sometimes the duel was just a concession to public opinion, since to refuse a challenge to a duel, even senseless, was considered a disgrace, which undoubtedly affected the honor of a nobleman. A man too easy going to reconciliation could be known as a coward – thus, the duel was easy to provoke, even without a serious reason for a deadly duel.
The theme of the duel in Russian literature is not only important, but also interesting. AS Pushkin became the first writer who deeply touched upon this theme: dueling scenes play a huge role in the plot and composition of the novel “Eugene Onegin” (a duel between Onegin and Lensky), in the story “Shot” (the duel of Silvio and the Count). After him, M. Yu. Lermontov in the work “The Hero of Our Time” (a duel between Pechorin and Grushnitsky), LN Tolstoy in the epic novel “War and Peace” (the duel of Pierre Bezukhov and Dolokhov) addressed this topic. IS Turgenev in the novel “Fathers and Sons” brings to the duel of irreconcilable opponents – Bazarov and Kirsanov.
Speaking of the duel in the novel “Eugene Onegin”, we remember his role in the composition of the whole work: making friends with Lensky, an eighteen-year-old poet, Onegin did not even imagine that their friendship would turn into a tragedy. On Tatyana’s name-day parties, an angry Onegin, trying to take revenge on the innocent Lensky, starts courting the frivolous Olga, which was the reason for the duel: Lenski stands up for the honor of his bride. An evil joke turns into a cruel insult in the eyes of a young poet, and he calls yesterday’s friend to a duel.
He thinks: “I will be her savior,
will not tolerate corrupter
Mladen heart tempted…”
All this means friends:
“I shoot with a friend.”
I think we need to separate the reason for the duel and the true reason for the fight.
It is no accident that Pushkin creates the image of Zaretsky’s “old duelist” (“He is angry, he is a gossip, he is a talker”), personifying so “significant public opinion” for Onegin. His own pride and the dependence of the protagonist on public opinion are doing their job: the duel takes place despite Yevgeny Onegin’s ironically negative attitude towards her. Pushkin condemns the more experienced and mature Onegin, regrets and heartily mourns the young poet Lensky, who died so early and senselessly.
The fate of the heroes of the novel was distorted by this duel: Vladimir Lensky perished, Eugene Onegin left the village and went on a forced journey, frivolous Olga did not long grieve about her fiancé, soon got married and left the village. One Tatyana Larina long sad about the young poet, visits his grave, which speaks once more of the depth of her nature… A
tragic duel breeds Onegin with Tatyana forever, since the shadow of this involuntary murder will always stand between them. Eugene Onegin has survived a lot, rethought a lot, so he returns to Petersburg as another person, matured, who understood much of himself and the laws of secular society.
It was only the person who took part in the duels that could portray the nobleman’s duel so accurately. Such a man was Pushkin: his lively character and strong temperament led to conflicts many times. But he never killed a single person in a duel, and his opponents usually treated him with sufficient care, fulfilling the laws of the duel, but not causing physical harm: they saw Pushkin as a national poet.
“Hero of Time”, depicted Lermontov – Pechorin – also involved in a duel. Pechorin and Grushnitsky are heroes-twins. What is in Pechorin’s character based on true experiences is the result of serious passions and serious life experience, Grushnitsky only mask, posturing, false emotions, about which the hero learned from books. False demonism Grushnitsky irritates Pechorin, as he guesses in the Junkers resentful resemblance to himself. The duel is predicted already at the very beginning of the chapter “Princess Mary”: “… if we meet on a narrow road, then one of us will not be happy.”
Duel Pechorin with Grushnitsky combines the features of a duel of honor and banal murder. On the one hand, Pechorin punishes evil and vulgarity, becoming an “ax in the hands of fate.” On the other hand, he and Werner turn out to be provincial gossipers, they adopt the laws of the “water society” and kill “the poor and good books that Grushnitsky has read”, which suddenly appears in the face of death as a man of honor: “I despise myself and hate you”.
So, the theme of the duel in Russian literature is very broad, the episode of the fight itself is usually important in the composition of the work, in characterizing its heroes, that is, it is one of the central episodes of works of art.