“The Station Master”
The Station Master is a story of a station master who had a beautiful charming daughter that he lost to a traveler and never got back.
Pushkin starts the story by first trying to relate to the reader, admitting that everyone, in a time of anger, has had found fault in a station master and has grown annoyed or upset with one. He goes on to describe how difficult the life of a station master can be, and how much disrespect and grueling labor they must deal with.
One day the narrator meets a station master with a beautiful young daughter named Dunya. She was charming and refined, and she made his parting very difficult. A couple years later he returned to the same area and met again the same station master, Samson Vyrin, though he had aged considerably. He asked Vyrin how his Dunya was, to which Vyrin began the story.
Dunya was the most lovely, perfect daughter. The anger of any traveling gentleman would instantly subside upon talking to her. One day a traveler came and as he was about to have supper, fell very ill. The doctor came and told the tenants that the traveler needed a few days rest and then he could be on his way again. By that Sunday, he felt well enough and was ready to part. He offered Dunya a ride to the church, as she was en route to attending mass. Her father encouraged her to go on ahead, but instantly regretted it afterwards. He ran off to mass and of course Dunya was nowhere to be seen. Vyrin went on to the next station master who told him what he feared, that Dunya had gone home with the hussar.
Vyrin fell temporarily ill and saw the same doctor that had been brought to treat the hussar, who admitted that the hussar was healthy the entire time. The station master instantly took leave to find his daughter. He found that Captain Minsky, the abductor, was going to Petersburg and lived at Demoute’s Inn. Upon his arrival he got a meeting with Minsky who instantly recognized him and sent him off without letting him see his daughter, telling him Dunya would no longer be accustomed to her old way of life.
The station master followed Minsky home though and succeeded in getting one last look at his daughter. She was beautiful and magnificent, and was admiring Minsky when Vyrin caught a glimpse of her. Minsky kicked him out one final time and that was the last he saw of his daughter.
The main narrator later returned to the station master, but only found that he had died of drinking. He resolved to see his grave, and a young boy lead him there. The boy unknowingly revealed that Dunya had visited the cemetery the year before, and had stooped near her father’s grave for a long time.
Similar to Poor Liza by Karazmin, a great deal of the conflict arises from the different classes in Russian society. The station master cannot take his daughter back, as the hussar is a much higher rank than himself. The narrator himself can see this discrepancy, and says so at the start of the story, wondering what would happen if instead of using “let rank honor rank”, they used “let intelligence honor intelligence”.
“The Queen of Spades”
The Queen of Spades describes one German man’s hopes to ascertain an old noble woman’s secret of gambling success and the subsequent destruction his obsession brings to the lives around him, as well as his own.
Pushkin’s opening scene describes an evening of gambling and cards at calvary officer Narumov’s estate ending to a late supper and discussions of various winnings and losses. One of the gamblers, Tomsky, shares the story of his grandmother, the Countess Anna Fedotovna, who inexplicably acquired a vast amount of wealth in a card game against the Duke of Orleans by playing three unknown cards in sequence. One man in attendance of the discussion, a German engineer named Hermann, later finds himself fascinated by the miraculous secret of the Countess, and vows to discover the trick for himself.
Pushkin alternates between accounts of Hermanns growing obsession and the life of young Lizaveta Ivanova, the ward of the advanced Countess Anna Fedotovna. Her grace, polite mannerisms, and loyalty to the Countess lead her to become the embodiment of innocence and purity throughout the story, similar to the symbolism of Liza in Poor Liza. Pushkin uses this emanating purity to develop and symbolize every character that comes in contact with Lizaveta. For example, while the Countess is not inherently evil, her constant demands and control over Lizaveta highlight the repression of Lizaveta’s young passions and even further the old, aristocratic view of the civilized Enlightenment that wages war on the nubile, fiery emotions of Romanticism, qualities that blossom in a secret and cautious relationship between Lizaveta and Hermann.
In their correspondence, Hermann is genuinely taken by Lizaveta and presents sincere feelings toward her. However, when the opportunity arises for him to confront the Countess and demand she share her gambling secret, his obsession draws his gun and inspires threats on the Countess’s life. She dies of fright, and the rouse of Hermann’s love for Lizaveta is shattered, revealing the true characterization of Hermann as a guilty but still obsessed man, corrupted by monetary greed. His wishes are presumably answered when the ghost of the Countess visits him and reveals her gambling secret.
The climax of the story culminates in Hermann’s attempt to utilize the secret to gain his fortune in a card game. However the secret turns out to be a last act of revenge from the Countess; Hermann loses and falls to insanity while Lizaveta marries another suitor.
Once the Countess, also potentially seen as the embodiment of Enlightened ideals, is dead, we see an overrunning of emotion, especially in the form of Hermann’s obsession with the Countess’s secret gambling method. As revenge for his romantic passions killing the Countess, her spirit robs him of his rationality and his reason, perhaps suggesting a continuing need for logic in an increasingly impassioned society.