The XIXth Century Depiction of Mental Illness

Turning to a fascist ruler julien turns to his

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turning to a fascist ruler; Julien turns to his Napoleonic image that dominates his drive towards social ascension and movement away from a nurturing Mother Nature. In a sense, Tocqueville warns against situations such as Julien’s submission to this Napoleonic 7 In Verrières, political and religious authority constantly shifts; both Father Chelan and M. de Rênal are uprooted from their positions of authority.
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image. The loss of symbolic reference points in authority, such as Julien’s absent father, leads to submission to what Kierkegaard later calls “dirt cheap [ideas]” (Kierkegaard 3). In A Hero of Our Time, Mikhail Lermontov depicts mental illness, in the context of ambivalence towards Mother Nature, through his depiction of Grigory Pechorin. Following in the footsteps of Stendhal, Lermontov allows the reader an insight into the internal state of his Byronic protagonist, albeit through a journal. Like Sorel, Pechorin’s illness, at least in part, lies in his ambivalence towards mother Nature: “A grand fellow he was, take it from me, only a bit odd. For instance, he’d spend the whole day out hunting in rain or cold. Everyone else would be tired and frozen, but he’d think nothing of it. Yet another time he’d sit in his room and at the least puff of wind reckon he’d caught a chill” (Lermontov 11). Pechorin’s two stances towards Nature represent an underlying Faustian split 8 . Through symbolic loss of his love for Mother Nature, Pechorin emerges in “Maxim Maximych” as a jaded dandy who greets his old comrade Maximych with apathy, but he wasn’t always so indifferent (48). The earliest look at a young Pechorin occurs in the seaside town of “Taman,” closest to Mother Nature. In contrast to the distrustful, alienated, and conniving captain that emerges in town life, during “Princess Mary,” Pechorin is still youthful, forgiving 9 , and reactive: 8 “Two souls, alas, dwell in [Faust’s] breast, each seeks to rule without the other” (Goethe 87) 9 Pechorin “was almost glad” when he realizes his “Undine” has not drowned, even after she tries to murder him (68).
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“There was no point going on, so I turned to the blind boy, who sat in front of the stove, putting sticks on the fire. I took hold of his ear. ‘Now then, you blind imp,’ I said. ‘Where were you going with that bundle last night, eh?’ The boy suddenly burst into tears, bawling and whining’” (62). “Taman” reveals Pechorin as a naïve cadet, close to Mother Nature, but also a failed Byronic hero. He follows his “Undine” out into the open ocean even though he “couldn’t swim,” and was “very nearly drowned by a girl of eighteen,” a weakness untypical of the Byronic hero (67-69). Two years after his experiences in Taman, Pechorin is no longer the hotheaded and impressionable young cadet. Like Julien Sorel, Pechorin develops a tough outer shell, “corrupted by society” to protect himself from experiences like those of his youth.
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